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Aviation Accident

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NTSB Identification: CEN18LA365
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, September 03, 2018 in Orchard Lake, MI
Aircraft: MD HELICOPTERS MD-369, registration: N1601Y
Injuries: 1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On September 3, 2018, about 1440 eastern daylight time, a skid-equipped MD Helicopters 369E helicopter, N1601Y, impacted terrain during takeoff at Orchard Lake, Michigan. The left seat pilot, the sole occupant, sustained serious injuries. The helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to HiFlite Inc., Rochester Hills, Michigan and was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a visual flight rules personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The local area flight originated from the pilot's private heliport, McPhail Heliport (7MI1), Orchard Lake, about 1440.

Law enforcement officers from the Orchard Lake Police Department were notified at 1444 of the accident and traveled to the accident site, located at a private residence. Upon arrival, law enforcement officers observed the helicopter laying on its left side in a grass field with the main rotor blades separated from the main rotor mast, the engine still operating, and the tail rotor system separated from the tailboom. The pilot was trapped inside the cockpit. When law enforcement officers approached the pilot in the cockpit and asked the pilot what happened, the pilot reported, "I don't know, it started spinning." The pilot was asked if he was taking off or landing when the accident occurred, and the pilot responded he was landing. Firefighters from the Bloomfield Township Fire Department arrived at the accident site and the pilot was extracted from the wreckage for transportation to a medical facility for treatment.



Law enforcement officers interviewed a witness who reported that she did not visually observe the accident sequence, but she heard the accident from her residence which was in close proximity to the accident site. She further reported that she heard the pilot start the helicopter, the helicopter "ran to warm it up," and that the accident occurred when the pilot was taking off.

Two Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspectors (ASI) from the East Michigan Flight Standards District Office arrived at the accident site about 1530. Photographs provided by the FAA ASIs showed the heliport consisted of a concrete pad on an east to west axis (the touchdown and liftoff area, commonly known as the TLOF), along with a hangar stationed on the west side of the pad. A south to north tree line was located immediately behind the hangar. To the east and south of the heliport was an open, level grass field. Immediately to the north of the heliport, were various power lines starting about 25 feet high and terminating about 45 feet high, with various orange marker balls installed. A wheeled helicopter transportation dolly was found parked on the yellow touchdown/positioning "H" triangle marking. The wreckage of the helicopter was found about 40 feet to the east of the TLOF on the grass field, with the nose of the helicopter oriented to the north.

No evidence of an obstacle impact or wire strike was observed by the FAA ASIs. The FAA ASIs were able to establish flight control continuity on the airframe up to the various points of separation due to impact. All components of the helicopter were accounted for at the accident site.

In a telephone conversation with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge on September 12, the pilot reported that as he was taking off from the TLOF, he observed multiple Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) that "flew at me." He reported that he maneuvered the helicopter to avoid the birds and that was the last sequence of the flight that he could recall. No evidence of bird remains (commonly known as snarge) were located in the wreckage nor in the area surrounding the wreckage by the FAA ASIs.

The pilot sustained serious injuries to his head and body. The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the main rotor system, the fuselage, the tailboom, and the tail rotor system. The helicopter was recovered from the accident site and transported to a secure facility.

The 4-seat capacity helicopter, serial number 0216E, was built in 1987. The helicopter was powered by a 420 horsepower Rolls-Royce 250-C20B turboshaft engine, serial number CAE-835492.