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NTSB Final Report: Winthrop, Washington

Location: Winthrop, Washington
Accident Number: WPR21LA084
Date & Time: January 9, 2021, 12:30
Local Registration: N8612F
Aircraft: Hughes 369D
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: Tailstrike
Injuries: 2 None
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Positioning

The pilot reported that, while landing in a snow-covered, unimproved landing zone, the helicopter drifted rearward, the tail rotor struck a snowbank, and the helicopter began to spin to the right. The pilot reduced the throttle setting to off and applied left pedal to reduce the spin, but the helicopter drifted to the right and the right skid impacted snow. The helicopter subsequently rolled over and impacted terrain. The tailboom and the main and tail rotor drive systems were substantially damaged. The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation. 

Probable Cause and Findings 
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot’s failure to adequately monitor the environment which resulted in a collision with a snowbank and subsequent loss of control.

Personnel issues Monitoring environment - Pilot
Personnel issues Aircraft control - Pilot
Environmental issues Sloped/uneven terrain - Effect on operation

Factual Information

History of Flight
Landing-flare/touchdown Tailstrike (Defining event)

Pilot Information
Certificate: Commercial
Age: 60,Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine land; Multi-engine land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Glider; Helicopter
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification: Class 2 With waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: March 17, 2020
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: October 29, 2020
Flight Time: 8125 hours (Total, all aircraft), 575 hours (Total, this make and model), 8025 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 46 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 21 hours (Last 30 days, all
aircraft), 1 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

Passenger Information
Age: Male
Airplane Rating(s):
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s):
Restraint Used: 4-point
Instrument Rating(s):
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s):
Toxicology Performed:
Medical Certification:
Last FAA Medical Exam:
Occupational Pilot:
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information
Aircraft Make: Hughes
Registration: N8612F
Model/Series: 369D
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 1977
Amateur Built:
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 570142D
Landing Gear Type: None;
High skid Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: January 8, 2021 100 hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 3000 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 1.9 Hrs
Engines: 1 Turbo shaft
Airframe Total Time: 21451.2 Hrs as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: ALLISON
ELT: C126 installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: 250-C20R
Registered Owner:
Rated Power: 250 Horsepower
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Rotorcraft external load (133), Commuter air carrier (135), Agricultural aircraft (137)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan
Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: S52
Distance from Accident Site: 3.1 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 10:00
Local Direction from Accident Site: 150°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Unknown / 3000 ft AGL
Visibility 10 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 3000 ft AGL
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction:
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 30.32 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 2.2°C / -6.7°C
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Darrington, WA (1S2)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Destination: Winthrop, WA
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 11:15 Local
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information
Airport: Methow Valley State S52
Runway Surface Type:
Airport Elevation: 1706 ft msl
Runway Surface Condition: Snow
Runway Used:
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Full stop;Straight-in

Wreckage and Impact Information
Crew Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 None
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 None
Latitude, Longitude: 48.47318,-120.1782(est)

Preventing Similar Accidents
Manage Risk: Good Decision-making and Risk Management Practices are Critical

Although few pilots knowingly accept severe risks, accidents can also result when several risks of
marginal severity are not identified or are ineffectively managed by the pilot and compound into a dangerous situation. Accidents also result when the pilot does not accurately perceive situations that involve high levels of risk. Ineffective risk management or poor aeronautical decision-making can be associated with almost any type of fatal general aviation accident.

By identifying personal attitudes that are hazardous to safe flying, applying behavior modification  techniques, recognizing and coping with stress, and effectively using all resources, pilots can
substantially improve the safety of each flight. Remember that effective risk management takes practice. It is a decision-making process by which pilots can systematically identify hazards, assess the degree of risk, and determine the best course of action. Pilots should plan ahead with flight diversion orcancellation alternatives and not be afraid to change their plans; it can sometimes be the difference between arriving safely late or not arriving at all.

See http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-alerts/documents/SA_023.pdf for additional resources.

The NTSB presents this information to prevent recurrence of similar accidents. Note that this should not be considered guidance from the regulator, nor does this supersede existing FAA Regulations (FARs).

Administrative Information
Investigator In Charge (IIC): Bledsoe, James
Additional Participating Persons: Kevin Marsac, Principal Avionics Inspector, ; FSDO; Spokane, WA
Original Publish Date: September 20, 2021
Investigation Class: 4
Note: The NTSB did not travel to the scene of this accident.
Investigation Docket: https://data.ntsb.gov/Docket?ProjectID=102514

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), established in 1967, is an independent federal agency mandated by Congress through the Independent Safety Board Act of 1974 to  investigate transportation accidents, determine the probable causes of the accidents, issue safety recommendations, study transportation safety issues, and evaluate the safety effectiveness of government agencies involved in transportation. The NTSB makes public its actions and decisions through accident reports, safety studies, special investigation reports, safety recommendations, and statistical reviews.

The Independent Safety Board Act, as codified at 49 U.S.C. Section 1154(b), precludes the admission into evidence or use of any part of an NTSB report related to an incident or accident in a civil action for damages resulting from a matter mentioned in the report. A factual report that may be admissible under 49 U.S.C. § 1154(b) is available here.