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NTSB AVIATION ACCIDENT/INCIDENT DATABASE REPORT


General Information

Data Source:                          NTSB AVIATION ACCIDENT/INCIDENT DATABASE
   Report Number:                        CHI98LA021 
   Local Date:                           10/14/1997
   Local Time:                           21:26 CDT
   State:                                ND    
   City:                                 GRAND FORKS                        
   Airport Name:                                                  
   Airport Id:                                 
   Event Type:                           ACCIDENT
   Injury Severity:                      NONE   
   Report Status:                        FINAL      
   Mid Air Collision:                    NO 

Operations Information

Category of Operation:                GENERAL AVIATION       
   Aircraft Type:                        HELICOPTER     
   Aircraft Damage:                      SUBSTANTIAL      
   Phase of Flight:                      560 APPROACH                                          
   Aircraft Make/Model:                                                  
   Operator Doing Business As:                                         
   Operator Name:                                                      
   Operator Code:                            
   Operator:                                                                       
   Owner Name:                           UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA    

Narrative

THE PILOT STATED HE KNEW HE WAS LOW ON FUEL DURING THE LAST LEG OF A 
   CROSS COUNTRY FLIGHT.  THE LOW FUEL LIGHT ILLUMINATED WHEN HE WAS 9.5 
   MILES FROM THE DESTINATION AIRPORT.  THE PILOT ELECTED TO MAKE A 
   PRECAUTIONARY LANDING. THE LIGHT WENT OFF DURING THE LANDING DESCENT.  
   THE PILOT CONTINUED THE DESCENT AT WHICH TIME HE FELT A YAW TO THE 
   RIGHT.  SUSPECTING AN ENGINE FAILURE, HE INITIATED A "HOVERING 
   AUTOROTATION" ONLY TO DISCOVER HE STILL HAD ENGINE POWER.  HE REPORTED 
   HE REGAINED CONTROL OF THE HELICOPTER AN D CONTINUED THE LANDING.  IT 
   WAS LATER DETERMINED THAT THE HELICOPTER CONTACTED AN ELECTRICAL WIRE 
   WHICH RAN ACROSS A NEARBY ROAD.

Sequence of Events

Occurrence #: 1  220 IN FLIGHT COLLISION WITH OBJECT
   Phase of Operation: 560 APPROACH

           Findings
           Subject - Modifier - Personnel Cause/Factor

   1b.   24001(S) - 3115(M) - 4000(P)  Cause
         PREFLIGHT PLANNING/PREPARATION - INADEQUATE - PILOT IN COMMAND
   2a.   17001(S) - 1161(M)
         FLUID, FUEL - LOW LEVEL
   2b.   24546(S) - 3118(M) - 4000(P)  Factor
         PRECAUTIONARY LANDING - INITIATED - PILOT IN COMMAND
   3a.   20100(S) - 2305(M)  Factor
         LIGHT CONDITION - DARK NIGHT
   4a.   20200(S) - 2524(M)  Factor
         OBJECT - WIRE, TRANSMISSION
   4b.   24021(S) - 3131(M) - 4000(P)  Cause
         VISUAL LOOKOUT - NOT POSSIBLE - PILOT IN COMMAND

Probable Cause

THE PILOT'S INADEQUATE PREFLIGHT PLANNING WHICH RESULTED IN A LOW FUEL 
   STATE, AND HIS INABILITY TO SEE THE WIRE WHICH THE HELICOPTER 
   CONTACTED.  FACTORS ASSOCIATED TO THE ACCIDENT WERE THE PRECAUTIONARY 
   LANDING, THE DARK NIGHT CONDITIONS, AND THE WIRE WHICH WAS CONTACTED.

Aircraft Information

Number of Seats:                      2  
   Aircraft Use:                         INSTRUCTIONAL      
   Type of Operation:                    14 CFR 91 
   Domestic/International:                            
   Passenger/Cargo:                                        
   Registration Number:                  557DC 
   Air Carrier Operating Certificates:   
   Aircraft Fire:                        NONE

                  Injuries
          Fatal  Serious  Minor  None
   Crew      0       0       0      1
   Pass      0       0       0      0
   Other     0       0       0      0
   Invlvd    0       0       0      1

   Landing Gear:                         SKID
   Certificated Maximum Gross Weight:    2050
   Engine Make:                          LYCOMING     
   Engine Model:                         IO-360-D1A   
   Number of Engines:                    1 
   Engine Type:                          RECIPROCATING-CARBURETOR    

Environment/Operations Information

Basic Weather Conditions:             VISUAL METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS (VMC)  
   Wind Direction (deg):                 180
   Wind Speed (knots):                   6
   Visibility (sm):                      10
   Visibility RVR (ft):                  0
   Visibility RVV (sm):                  0
   Cloud Height Above Ground Level (ft): 0
   Visibility Restrictions:              NONE
   Precipitation Type:                   NONE
   Light Condition:                      NIGHT (DARK)
   Departure Airport Id:                 PKD 
   Departure City:                       PARK RAPIDS
   Departure State:                      MN
   Destination Airport Id:               GFK 
   Destination City:                     
   Destination State:                      
   Flight Plan Filed:                    NONE
   ATC Clearance:                        NONE
   VFR Approach/Landing:                 PRECAUTIONARY LANDING
   Event Location:                       OFF AIRPORT/AIRSTRIP

Pilot-in-Command

Certificates:                         PRIVATE
   Ratings:
     Plane:                              SINGLE ENGINE LAND
     Non-Plane:                          HELICOPTER
     Instrument:                         AIRPLANE
   Had Current BFR:                      YES
   Months Since Last BFR:                2  
   Medical Certificate:                  CLASS 1
   Medical Certificate Validity:         VALID MEDICAL-NO WAIVERS/LIMITATIONS

              Flight Time (Hours)
   Total       :    219  Last 24 Hrs :    3
   Make/Model  :    101  Last 30 Days:   11
   Instrument  :      3  Last 90 Days:   61
   Multi-Engine:      0  Rotorcraft  :  104


NTSB Identification: CHI98LA021. The docket is stored in the (offline) NTSB Imaging System.

Accident occurred OCT-14-97 at GRAND FORKS, ND
Aircraft: Schweizer 269C, registration: N557DC
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

The pilot stated he knew he was low on fuel during the last leg of a cross country flight. The low fuel light illuminated when he was 9.5 miles from the destination airport. The pilot elected to make a precautionary landing. The light went off during the landing descent. The pilot continued the descent at which time he felt a yaw to the right. Suspecting an engine failure, he initiated a "hovering autorotation" only to discover he still had engine power. He reported he regained control of the helicopter and continued the landing. It was later determined that the helicopter contacted an electrical wire which ran across a nearby road.
Probable Cause
the pilot's inadequate preflight planning which resulted in a low fuel state, and his inability to see the wire which the helicopter contacted. Factors associated to the accident were the precautionary landing, the dark night conditions, and the wire which was contacted.

Full Narrative:

On October 14, 1997, at 2126 central daylight time, a Schweizer 269C, N557DC, operated by the University of North Dakota, and flown by a private pilot collided with a utility pole while making a precautionary landing in Grand Forks, North Dakota, while on a solo training flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The helicopter was substantially damaged and the pilot was not injured. The solo instructional flight was operating under 14 CFR Part 91. The flight originated from Park Rapids, Minnesota, at 2000.

The pilot reported the accident occurred on the last leg of a cross country flight. He said he was 9.5 miles from his destination of Grand Forks when the low fuel warning light came on. He reported that he knew he was low on fuel according to the fuel gauge prior to the light coming. He declared an emergency with the Air Traffic Control Facility at Grand Forks, stating that he was going to land close to Highway 81. The pilot reported that the warning light went off as he initiated a descent. He reported that he informed the controller of the situation and that he was still intending on making an off airport landing.

The pilot reported he continued toward the highway looking for a driveway on which to land. He turned the helicopter into the wind and started "descending again at a shallow angle when the aircraft had a sudden yaw to the right." He reported that he suspected an engine failure so he initiated a hovering autorotation. When he pulled the collective, he heard the engine "rev-up" and the helicopter climbed. He realized he still had engine power so he "got control of the aircraft and landed it." It was after the landing that a local resident informed the pilot that he contacted an electrical wire which ran across the nearby road.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board