CEN11LA648
CEN11LA648

On August 15, 2011, at 1650 mountain daylight time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, N828PM, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain during landing at a remote hunting lodge near Ocate, New Mexico. The helicopter was owned and operated by a private individual. The pilot was seriously injured and the passenger sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan had been not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. At the time of the accident the helicopter was returning from a local flight.

The pilot reported that he was about 40 feet above power lines with the helicopter flying about 80 to 150 feet above ground level with the airspeed at about 10 to 15 knots. At that point a gust of wind caused the nose of the helicopter to begin an uncommanded turn to the left and the pilot got a low rotor warning and a loss of engine power. The pilot lowered the collective pitch lever, put in right pedal, and kept “full throttle”. The pilot reported that the helicopter continued to spin and made two to three complete 360 degree turns before it impacted terrain. During impact the skid landing gear collapsed and the lower fuselage and tail boom were substantially damaged. The helicopter came to rest mostly upright. There was adequate fuel on-board, but there was no fuel spill and no postimpact fire.

According to a carburetor icing probability chart, an engine operating in the ambient conditions at the time of the accident could expect a serious risk of carburetor icing while at cruise power. The pilot reported that he had possibly failed to use enough carburetor heat on this flight and he thought that was the reason for the loss of engine power.

An examination of the helicopter showed no preimpact mechanical failures or anomalies that would have prevented operations.

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