I just got back from the helicopter industry's most populus and powerful meeting - Heli Expo - where the top-down, bottoms-up message was - WE GOTTA GET SAFER!!
No one was injured thank goodness (unlike the previous accident), but there appears to be a troubling lack of safety culture within the organization.
Is it just me?
Basic set up is this: It's 10:36 at night on 11 February 2010 when N61MD, aka Trooper 7, is landing on the ground-level pad at the Prince George's General Hospital (IMD4) ground-level helipad, coming in to the suburban Maryland facility with two patients medevaced from an automobile accident. NTSB says the hospital informed the pilot that he couldn't land on the elevated pad due to ice.
Unlike in the Google Maps picture above though, Maryland's been getting drenched in snow this winter.
From the report:
"The helicopter landed about 2209, facing slightly south of west. The pilot stated that "the landing...was accomplished with no incidents detected." After landing, the flight paramedic and the hospital receiving team offloaded and transported the patients to the hospital emergency department, while the pilot shut down the helicopter. The pilot reported that the shut down was normal, and after he secured the helicopter, he joined the flight paramedic in the hospital.
Then this (emphasis is mine):
About 2229, when the crew returned to the helicopter, the pilot noted that "the crew observed that the aircraft's fenestron was resting on top of an approximate three foot high snow bank," and that "further inspection detected no damage to the fenestron." According to the flight paramedic, he suggested to the pilot that it might be appropriate to remove some of the snow beneath the fenestron, in order to provide more clearance for the takeoff.
Here's the brilliant part. Maybe he didn't have a shovel... (again, emphasis is mine):
The pilot determined that "since there was no damage" and that "the tail rotor itself was clear of the snow, a straight up take off with no yaw movement would be made."
Note in the YouTube video of a different Maryland AS365 on takeoff how the helicopter shifts rearward as it prepares to takeoff.
Lo and behold on that winter's night, once the pilot cranked up the engines...
About 2234, engine start was completed, without any anomalies. The pilot stated that "a slow deliberate takeoff was then initiated," and when the helicopter "became light on the wheels, but prior to takeoff, a vibration was detected, emanating from the rear of the aircraft." In response to the vibration, the pilot lowered the collective, shut down both engines, and applied the rotor brake.
You can probably guess what had happened, as snow typically isn't light and feathery after being plowed and shoveled.
The pilot stated that after he shut down and secured the helicopter, he and the flight paramedic visually inspected the helicopter. The pilot stated that the inspection revealed that "the fenestron was found to be severely damaged by the tail rotor blades, the right tail rotor gear box cap appeared to have been ingested by the tail rotor, and numerous tail rotor blades were damaged." Preliminary examination by MSP and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel revealed substantial damage to the tail rotor blades, the fenestron, the tail rotor gear box (TGB), the TGB drive coupling, and the TGB mounting structure.