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Skycrane Crash


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Never any substitute for poor maintenance practices!


NTSB Identification: LAX07LA210

14 CFR Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load

Accident occurred Sunday, July 08, 2007 in Los Olivos, CA

Aircraft: Aviation International Rotors CH-54A, registration: N44094

Injuries: 2 Minor.


This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.


On July 8, 2007, about 1608 Pacific daylight time, an Aviation International Rotors CH-54A, N44094, experienced a mechanical malfunction and rolled over during takeoff from a helibase about 4 miles north of Los Olivos, California. The helicopter was operated by Heavy Lift Helicopters, Inc., Apple Valley, California, under a "call when needed" contract for the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The purpose of the flight was to support CAL FIRE's wildland fire suppression activities of dispersing retardant on a fire in Santa Barbara County. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a company flight plan had been filed. The helicopter was substantially damaged. The airline transport certificated pilot and the commercial certificated copilot sustained minor injuries. The flight was performed under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 133, and it was originating at the time of the accident.


Witnesses reported that while the helicopter was on the ground at the southeast corner of the Figueroa Helibase on spot number 2, and at operating power, the helicopter began an uncommanded slow rollover to the right. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) coordinator examined the helicopter at the accident site.


The FAA coordinator reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that components, which secure one of the three main rotor blade pitch change servo units to the helicopter, were found about 6 feet away from the main wreckage. The components consisted of a nut, bolt, pin, and plate. This assembly secures one of the servo units to the helicopter transmission on one end and the helicopter swash plate on the other end. The FAA coordinator additionally reported that the integrity of this assembly is critical to flight safety, and separation of the servo unit will result in loss of main rotor blade pitch control.

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