Felt Ground Contact And “Forcefully Slammed The Collective To The Floor”
Location: Abingdon, VA Accident Number: ERA22LA145
Date & Time: March 6, 2022, 23:59 Local Registration: N29VA
Aircraft: Eurocopter Deutschland GMBH MBB-BK 117 C-2 Injuries: 1 Serious, 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Public aircraft
On March 6, 2022, at 2359 eastern standard time, a Eurocopter Deutschland GMBH, MBB-BK 117-C-2 helicopter, N29VA, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident at the Virginia Highlands Airport (VJI), Abingdon, Virginia. The pilot sustained serious injuries and the two flight paramedics were not injured. The helicopter was operated by the Virginia Department of State Police as a public state aircraft.
The pilot reported that his duty-day started at 0800 and he had completed four air medical transportation flights prior to receiving an additional call at 2200 for a patient transfer from the Lonesome Pine Hospital (VG50), Big Stone Gap, Virginia, to Holston Valley Hospital (3TN5), Kingsport, Tennessee. The flights from his base (VJI) to both hospitals were routine. During the positioning flight from 3TN5 to VJI, the pilot reported that on liftoff he “slowly pulled up on the collective, the helicopter became light on the skids, and I noticed what sounded like a surge in the engines. I also noticed the [engine power] needles surged upward.” He asked the flight paramedic seated in the front seat whether he heard the noise; the paramedic reported after the accident that he noticed the helicopter skid slip nose right but didn’t think anything was abnormal. The pilot continued the liftoff into a hover, evaluated the engine instruments and noted normal indications. He then proceeded en route without further incident to VJI.
Upon arrival the pilot maneuvered in a sideward right hover to align with a platform dolly that was positioned on the apron. The pilot visually verified that the helicopter was centered over the dolly and lowered the collective to land. He then felt the rear of the skids make contact with the dolly; however, he then heard “what sounded like an engine surge similar to the sound the helicopter had made” on liftoff from 3TN5. Subsequently, the helicopter moved toward nearby hangars, and entered “an extreme nose low position.” The pilot maneuvered the cyclic full aft and left, in an attempt to arrest the descent. He then felt ground contact and “forcefully slammed the collective to the floor.” The helicopter came to rest in a parking lot next to the dolly after skidding through grass and an evacuation was performed after the rotor blades were secured.
Photographs of the helicopter revealed that it came to rest up-right, and the dolly’s orientation shifted from its original north-south position after the helicopter contacted it. Substantial damage was sustained to the fuselage and main rotors. A preliminary visual examination of the helicopter’s engine did not reveal any obvious anomalies. The helicopter was retained for further examination.