By Jim Timm
The following are the NTSB reports of the aviation accidents that have occurred in Arizona from late February through late March, 2017. We will use this detailed accident information to develop safety programs and briefings that will help pilots learn from the mistakes being made by others and thus permitting them to take the action necessary to prevent similar accidents from happening to them.
Again, from a flight safety standpoint, the last reporting period appears to have been outstanding in that from late February to late March the NTSB has not reported any accidents. They did issue two much delayed reports on accidents that had occurred in late January and mid-February, neither of which involved any injuries. I would like to assume that everyone has been out there actively flying, but with a much higher degree of safety awareness. While the year did start off rather poorly, I hope that was an anomaly, and present trend continues and everyone continues to fly safely.
Based on the NTSB information available when this summary was prepared, the two delayed accident reports that appeared this past reporting period are as follows:
Accident Date: Thursday, January 26, 2017
Report Dated: 3/14/17 (This was a Factual Report)
Title 14 CFR Part 91
Location: Fort Mohave
Aircraft Type: Piper PA32R
Injuries: 2 Uninjured
GEAR UP LANDING
The pilot reported that during the initial climb he retracted the landing gear normally and then "a few minutes later the radios went blank." The pilot further reported that he believed he had a radio problem, so he decided to return to the airport. During the return, the pilot reported that he moved the landing gear selector to the down position, but the three gear down indicator lights did not illuminate. Subsequently, the pilot reported that he circled a few miles east of the airport to troubleshoot the issue.
During the circling, the pilot reported that he "cycled the master switch and the radio master a couple times with no results." The pilot further reported that the airplane was equipped with an "automatic gear extension system," so he verified that the override switch was not engaged, fully extended the flaps, and slowed the airplane to 85 knots. Subsequently, the pilot believed the landing gear was down, so he returned to the airport for landing. During touchdown, the left main landing gear and nose gear collapsed (or were not extended) and the airplane veered off the runway into dirt, which resulted in substantial damage to the left wing. During a post-accident interview, the pilot reported that he believed he had "a total electrical failure."
According to a witness who owns a house on the airport property, he observed the airplane depart and about 5 minutes later saw that the airplane had returned for landing. The witness reported that the airplane's landing gear was retracted until the point at which the pilot began the landing flare over the runway. The witness further reported, when the airplane was about 5 feet above the runway, each landing gear began to extend, but the airplane touched down before the nose gear and left main landing gear could extend fully.
According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI) who arrived at the accident site about two to three hours after the event, when he "switched the master switch on," he observed electrical equipment turn on and heard the landing gear extension motor running. During a subsequent post-accident examination, the FAA ASI reported that he found no abnormalities with the electrical system. He also extended the landing gear to the down and locked position with the electric/ hydraulic system and observed three green indicator lights illuminated.
According to the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) for the accident airplane, a "pressure sensing device" in the landing gear system will lower the gear "regardless of the gear selection position," pending that the override switch is not engaged. The POH further stated in part: "The gear is designed to extend at airspeeds below approximately103 KIAS [Knots Indicated Airspeed] with power off even if the selector is in the up position. The extension speeds will vary from approximately 81 KTS [Knots] to approximately 103 KIAS depending on power settings and altitude."
Accident Date: Monday, February 18, 2017
Report Dated: 3/7/17 (This was a Preliminary Report)
Title 14 CFR Part 91
Aircraft Type: Robinson R22 Beta
Injuries: 2 Uninjured
LOSS OF CONTROL MANEUVERING
On February 18, 2017, about 0800 MST, a Robinson R22 Beta landed hard in an open field near Holbrook, Arizona, after the pilot experienced a loss of helicopter control while maneuvering. The private pilot/owner and one passenger were not injured. The helicopter was substantially damaged. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the local area personal flight and no flight plan had been filed. The flight departed from a private residence about 0715 the morning of the accident.
According to the pilot's written statement, he departed from his brothers residence about 0715 with the intent of flying around Holbrook on a personal flight. They overflew and descended over a cow pasture to look at the cows. The pilot reported his airspeed was about 10 knots with a 7 knot headwind. He maneuvered the helicopter in a 180-degree turn and the helicopter lost lift. He pulled cyclic, which responded by lowering engine and main rotor blade rpm; he tried to lower and increase throttle, and flared to land; however, the helicopter landed hard. The main rotor blades contacted and subsequently severed the tail boom.
The pilot stated that there were no mechanical problems that would have precluded normal operation of the helicopter.