‘A Sudden Violent Shaking And Vibration Was Experienced’
Location: Miami Beach, FL Accident Number: ERA22LA131
Date & Time: February 19, 2022, 13:10 Local Registration: N544SB
Aircraft: Robinson Helicopter R44 Injuries: 3 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal
On February 19, 2022, at 1310 eastern standard time, a Robinson Helicopter R44, N544SB, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident near Miami Beach, Florida. The pilot and two passengers sustained serious injuries. The helicopter was operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight.
The pilot reported that he had departed a helipad in Marathon, Florida and was returning along the coastline to his base airport of North Perry Airport (HWO), Hollywood, Florida. As the flight path began paralleling the South Miami Beach area over water, a sudden violent shaking and vibration was experienced, which was followed by a loss of engine power and a low rotor RPM warning light and horn.
The pilot attempted to increase power at the initiation of the abnormal vibration, however, he realized the engine had lost power and initiated an autorotation. Subsequently, he maneuvered toward an area of shallow water between two groups of people and the helicopter impacted water about 10 seconds after the abnormal vibration began. The pilot assisted his passengers in evacuating the helicopter, and they received additional assistance from beachgoers to reach the beach.
The pilot recalled that he was flying about 420ft to 450ft above ground level about 85-95 knots when the vibration and loss of engine power occurred. Prior to the loss of power, the helicopter had been functioning normally without issue.
A Federal Aviation Administration inspector examined the helicopter at the accident site and recovery facility. The fuselage, tail boom, and tail rotor sustained substantial damage. One main rotor blade remained intact with little damage and the other had fractured about its midspan. The helicopter contained fuel and oil. There were no obvious external abnormalities observed with the engine.
The wreckage was retained for further examination.