Aviation Accident Summaries

Aviation Accident Summary ANC22FA030

Gila Bend, AZ, USA

Aircraft #1




The solo student pilot was conducting a cross-country flight when it impacted the terrain 212 ft before the approach end of the runway at the destination airport. The helicopter then slid about 30 ft and came to rest on its right side. A witness located about 1/2 mile west of the accident site reported seeing the helicopter go down and stated that the rotor blades were rotating before the impact. Postaccident airframe and engine examinations revealed no evidence of any preimpact mechanical failures or malfunctions that would have precluded normal operation. Given the upright orientation of the wreckage at impact, the significant damage to the underside of the fuselage, engine and skids, damage to the main rotor blades, coupled with the witness statement, were all consistent with a loss of control and a subsequent uncontrolled descent that resulted in the collision with terrain.

Factual Information

HISTORY OF FLIGHTOn April 15, 2022, about 0837 mountain standard time, a Robinson R22 helicopter, N7516G, sustained substantial damage when it was involved in an accident near Gila Bend, Arizona. The student pilot was fatally injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 instructional flight. The flight initiated at the Chandler Municipal Airport (CHD), Chandler, Arizona at about 0757. The flight was intended to be a solo cross-country flight to the Gila Bend Municipal Airport (E63), Gila Bend, Arizona. A witness located about 1/2 mile west of the accident site reported that the helicopter “came directly down.” He stated that before the impact the rotor blades on the helicopter were rotating; however, he was unable to hear the engine of the helicopter because he was operating heavy equipment. The helicopter impacted the terrain about 212 ft from the end of the runway, slid, and came to rest about 181 ft from the approach end of runway 22 at E63, and 52 ft left of runway centerline. The ground scars indicated the helicopter impacted on about a 180° heading and continued to travel on about a 210° heading before coming to rest on its right side with the nose of the helicopter heading about 096°. WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATIONThe helicopter sustained upward crushing on the underside of the fuselage and the engine compartment, the landing gear skids were displaced in multiple pieces, and all major components of the helicopter were located at the scene. A postaccident examination revealed that the braided shielding around the governor motor power cable had been repaired with heat shrink for shielding. The governor motor was placed on a test bench and functioned as designed with the heat shrink repair in place. The heat shrink was removed, and it was noted that the braided shield had been worn away or removed and there was a small area where bare wire was visible through the shielding. The engine crankshaft was rotated, and engine continuity was established. Thumb compression was obtained on all cylinders. The magnetos were placed on a test bench and both produced spark at all leads. Internal examination of the cylinders with a lighted borescope showed normal coloration with no evidence of foreign object ingestion, and no evidence of detonation. About 15 gallons of fuel were removed from the fuel bladders. The fuel was free of contaminates. The blue main rotor blade, serial number 3363, was bent upward at about 99 inches on the span with chordwise scoring and scratching on the tip. The red main rotor blade, serial number 3107, was bowed downward about 58 inches at the span. The clutch assembly spun freely and operated as designed in the locked and freewheeled directions. The drive belts were displaced from their grooves from impact with no abnormal wear noted. The main rotor mast rotated freely through 360°. Flight control continuity was established for all flight controls.

Probable Cause and Findings

The student pilot’s failure to maintain control during the landing approach.


Source: NTSB Aviation Accident Database

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