More detail on this person: NTSB Identification: LAX98FA236 .
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Accident occurred Saturday, July 18, 1998 in YUCCA VALLEY, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 6/22/2000
Aircraft: Sikorsky CH-54A, registration: N64KL
Injuries: 3 Fatal.
While in cruise flight, a main rotor blade separated. The helicopter exploded in flames and crashed. The green blade had failed an AD directed BIM check the evening prior to the accident. The crew chief recharged the blade with nitrogen and allowed the helicopter to remain parked overnight. The next morning he checked the BIM and found it had retained its charge. The crew of the accident aircraft, who were accompanied by the company's chief pilot in a second aircraft, made the decision to continue to fly the helicopter to its destination. There were several cellular calls both to and from the operator on the evening before the accident. A new exclusive-use contract for both aircraft was already in effect. The maintenance history of the green blade contained an unspecified minor repair after a reported overhaul. The operator stated that, at no time, had it performed any maintenance or repair to the blade. After the blade's mating fracture surfaces were examined, it was found that a hole had been drilled from the underside into the spar. The hole terminated at a conical point that is consistent with a drill bit. Fatigue banding could be seen in the immediate vicinity of the hole. Striations near the conical point, typical of fatigue, were seen with a SEM. The drill hole was under a blade pocket and had not been visible during previous inspections. There is no prescribed inspection/maintenance procedure short of removing the blade pockets that would have revealed the hole. Blade pockets are condition items. Stop-drilling cracks in blade pockets to prevent crack propagation is an authorized military maintenance procedure. Drilling into the spar as part of the process is not authorized.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows: An in-flight main rotor blade spar separation as a result of the pilot-in-command's decision to continue to fly the aircraft after it had failed an AD directed BIM check. Factors were the failure of the operator's chief pilot to maintain proper supervision over the operation of a company aircraft with a known grounding deficiency and the improper repair to the main rotor blade by unknown persons, which damaged the blade's spar.
This information was last updated 05/18/2016
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