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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN13LA194
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, March 14, 2013 in Eagle Nest, NM
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/24/2013
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II, registration: N392GP
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The flight instructor and student pilot were cruising about 800 feet above ground level when they heard a loud “bang,” followed immediately by the low rotor rpm horn, a warning light illumination, and a rapid decrease in rotor rpm indication. In response, the instructor initiated an autorotation by lowering the collective, and the engine immediately lost power. The helicopter touched down and then rocked forward due to soft and downward-sloping terrain. The instructor applied slight aft cyclic to prevent the main rotor blades from contacting the ground; however, the main rotor blades struck and severed the tail boom.
The engine was functionally tested, and it operated normally. However, one of the magnets used to provide rotor rpm indications was missing from the rotating transmission yoke and was found affixed to a bolt just aft of the yoke. It likely had become loose in flight, and its movement was the bang heard by the pilots. Scarring was found on one of the sensors opposite the magnet, indicating that the magnet had contacted the sensor. The separation of the magnet caused the rotor rpm indication to drop and the low rotor rpm warning horn and light to activate. Due to the control linkage between the collective and the throttle, when the instructor lowered the collective, the throttle closed rapidly. According to Robinson Helicopters, rapid throttle changes can result in a fuel-air ratio becoming too rich or too lean to sustain engine operation and result in an engine failure.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • A total loss of engine power due to a rapid throttle change during autorotation, which the flight instructor initiated in response to a low rotor rpm warning, which resulted from the separation of one of the magnets used to provide rotor rpm indications from the rotating transmission yoke. Contributing to the accident was the flight instructor's aft cyclic input upon landing.