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NTSB: FAA Examiner Contributed To Helo Crash

FAA Says "It Will Never Happen Again"

When pilot Mike Asset took a check ride on March 22, 2001, he said the FAA examiner "had something new" to show him. That "something new" ended up severely damaging the helicopter and made the examiner a "contributing factor" to the accident, according to the NTSB.

Asset was undergoing his annual check ride in an Agusta A109A twin engine helicopter (file photo of type, below) at the Port Allen Airport, Hanapepe, Kauai, Hawaii. The helicopter was registered to Niihau Helicopters of Makaweli, Hawaii.

According to the NTSB Probable Cause Report, the pilot said the designated examiner, Jeff Weller, told him during the flight that he wanted to demonstrate a new way to handle a stuck rudder pedal emergency. Here's what the NTSB report says:

According to the pilot's written statement, the check airman briefed him on the intended maneuvers and added, "he had something new to show [the pilot]." After completing the maneuvers and a few engine out procedures, the check airman held the left pedal in an offset position during takeoff to simulate a stuck left pedal emergency. The pilot removed his feet from the pedals and flew the traffic pattern with the pedal held by the check airman.

As the pilot set up for the simulated emergency landing with the stuck pedal, the check airman explained a "new way to handle this type of emergency situation." The check airman told the pilot to pick a spot on the runway adjacent to the windsock and to bring the helicopter to a hover above that spot. Though the pilot was "totally unfamiliar" with the procedure, the check airman was talking him through the approach. The check airman instructed the pilot to reduce airspeed and increase collective pitch as the helicopter neared the selected spot.

The helicopter arrived over the spot approximately 15- 20 feet above the runway. The check airman instructed the pilot to increase the collective pitch in order to keep the nose of the helicopter straight. Approximately 10 feet above the ground, the check airman told the pilot to reach up and "pull the throttle back in order to let the [helicopter] settle to the ground."

As the pilot reduced the power, the helicopter "made a violent 180-degree turn to the left, and the main rotor rpm quickly bled off, and [the pilot and check airman] struggled with the controls to stabilize the [helicopter]." The helicopter landed hard on its right main landing gear, which collapsed, allowing the helicopter to roll over on the right side. The check airman shutoff the engines, and the pilot turned off the electrical power.

In an additional statement provided by the pilot, he added that during the downwind leg of the last traffic pattern, the check airman told the pilot to remove his feet from the pedals. The pilot said he did so and could not remember if or when he placed his feet back on the pedals. He stated that at the time he reduced the engine power, he only had his right hand on the cyclic and the "check airman was fully on the [helicopter] controls."

The pilot stated he was not familiar with the maneuver, the check airman had not demonstrated the maneuver, and it had not been explained to him prior to the flight check.

The NTSB cited Weller's actions as contributing to the accident. That got the FAA's attention.

"At the FAA we take reports of the National Transportation Safety Board very seriously, and in this specific case we have made changes so that things are done differently," said FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer. The changes were made shortly after the accident, he told the Honolulu Advertiser.

FMI: NTSB Report


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