Engine Lost Partial Power And The Helicopter Landed Hard On The Runway And Rolled Over
Location: Rome, NY Accident Number: ERA21LA275
Date & Time: June 29, 2021, 13:47 Local Registration: N134VG
Aircraft: Bell 206 Injuries: 3 Minor Flight Conducted
Under: Part 91: General aviation – Instructional
On June 29, 2021, at 1347 eastern daylight time, a Bell 206B, N134VG, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at Griffiss International Airport (RME), Rome, New York. The airline transport pilot and two pilot-rated passengers sustained minor injuries. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 instructional flight.
The purpose of the flight was to conduct an initial Part 135 competency check ride for the pilot. On board were two Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspectors, one seated in the left seat performing the check ride, and another in the left rear seat providing oversight and on-the-job training to the other inspector.
According to the pilot, after performing maneuvers, the flight returned to the airport where he was to perform a straight-in autorotation with power recover to runway 33. He briefed the inspectors on the maneuver, carried out clearing turns and landing checks, and entered the autorotation at an altitude of 1,500 ft mean sea level. He lowered the collective and reduced the throttle to idle and maintained a speed of 65 knots. Before the flare, he advanced the throttle to the full open position and noted the power turbine and rotor RPM needles were in the green arc. Both he and the FAA inspector confirmed that the throttle was full open. As he raised the collective for recovery, the low rotor warning light and low rotor warning horn both activated. The engine lost partial power and the helicopter landed hard on the runway and rolled over on to its left side.
According to the FAA inspector seated in the left front seat, as the pilot reduced the collective at the start of the maneuver, he noticed a needle split on the tachometer, and concluded the throttle had been reduced. He did not observe any yawing motion of the helicopter at the time. The helicopter “floated” somewhat after the entry and the descent was smooth. As the airspeed was reduced at the beginning of the recovery, he noticed that the altitude was “slightly high” (he estimated slightly above 100 ft above ground level). He checked the throttle position by attempting to rotate it towards full, and it did not move. He did not recall if he checked the tachometer at that time. He noticed that the helicopter was “higher than usual at the completion of the power recovery,” and then felt the helicopter descend and thought the pilot was lowering the helicopter to a “more reasonable altitude.” As the low rotor RPM horn sounded, he glanced inside and attempted to locate the tachometer but was unable to readily see it.
As he looked back outside, the helicopter impacted the ground. After the helicopter came to rest with the engine still running, he rotated the right-side throttle grip to idle, noting that it took several iterations of gripping the throttle and rotating it with his fingers to rotate it to the IDLE position. He then struggled to press the detent button before he was able to rotate the throttle further to the OFF position.
Initial examination of the helicopter by a (third) FAA inspector revealed the helicopter sustained substantial damage to the fuselage above the windscreen and the left horizontal stabilizer.
The helicopter was retained for further examination.