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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: GAA18CA408
14 CFR Part 137: Agricultural
Accident occurred Monday, July 09, 2018 in Rulo, NE
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/05/2019
Aircraft: Robinson R44, registration: N144DJ
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

According to the helicopter pilot, he was performing a night agricultural flight. During takeoff from a platform located on top of the tender, his collective application was too aggressive, and during the ascent, the engine sputtered. The engine rpm and main rotor rpm decreased, and he tried to regain the rpm by lowering the collective. The helicopter was moving forward and descending, so he applied aft cyclic to arrest the forward movement, and he attempted to land. The left skid touched down in the soft dirt, and the pilot applied aft cyclic to prevent a nose-over, but the main rotor blades struck the tailboom. The helicopter rolled forward, and its nose spun left before the helicopter came to rest on its left side.
The helicopter sustained substantial damage the fuselage, tail rotor drive system, and skid tubes.
The pilot reported that the accident could have been prevented if he had not been in a hurry to complete the operation and that there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation.


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The pilot's improper collective application, which resulted in low rotor rpm during the takeoff climb and a subsequent ground collision. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s self-induced pressure to complete the operation.