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Deputy Chief Investigator of Accidents
Transport Accident Investigation Commission
P.O. Box 10-323
NTSB Identification: *ERA15FA025B*
Date: October 23, 2014
Location: Frederick, MD
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER COMPANY R44 II
Injuries: 3 Fatal,1 Minor,1 Uninjured.
A Cirrus SR22 airplane and a Robinson R44 II helicopter,
N7518Q collided in midair approximately 1 mile southwest
of the Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), Frederick,
Maryland. The helicopter departed controlled flight after
the collision, descended vertically, and was destroyed
by impact forces at ground contact. The airplane also
departed controlled flight, the ballistic parachute system
was deployed, and the airplane landed nose-down in
a thicket of low trees and brush. The flight instructor,
commercial pilot receiving instruction, and a passenger
in the helicopter were fatally injured. The private pilot on
board the airplane was not injured, and his passenger
sustained a minor injury.
Preliminary radar and voice communication information
from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed
that the accident airplane first contacted the FDK local
controller at 1534:10 approximately 10 miles west of
the field at an altitude of 3,000 feet. The local controller
acknowledged the pilot’s transmission and instructed him
to report three miles west of the airport for a left downwind
to runway 30. The pilot acknowledged and read back the
At the time the accident airplane contacted the local
controller, traffic handled by the tower included two
helicopters in the traffic pattern, one airplane conducting
practice instrument approaches to runway 23, another
airplane inbound from the southeast, and also a business
jet with its IFR clearance on request.
At 1535:02, the controller cleared the accident helicopter
for take-off from taxiway alpha, issued the current winds,
and the call was acknowledged.
At 1536:49, the pilot of the accident airplane reported that
he was three miles from the airport on a 45-degree entry
for the downwind for landing on runway 30.
At 1537:22, the local controller instructed the airplane to
report midfield left downwind for runway 30 and said,“I
have three helicopters below ya in the uh traffic pattern”.
At 1537:30, the pilot of the airplane acknowledged the
request to report midfield downwind and stated he had
two of the helicopters in sight. Immediately after that
transmission, at 1537:34, the local controller said,“Alright
uh two echo sierra, I have ya in sight runway three zero,
maintain your altitude to...until turning base, cleared
At 1537:49, the pilot of another helicopter in the traffic
pattern reported that an airplane and helicopter were
Witnesses on the ground observed the aircraft converge at
the same altitude. One witness said the helicopter appeared
to be in a stationary hover as the airplane approached
it and the two subsequently collided. She said neither
aircraft changed altitude as they approached each other.
A flight instructor for the operator in another company
helicopter followed the accident helicopter in the traffic
pattern for landing abeam runway 30. He said his helicopter
had just completed the turn onto the crosswind leg of the
traffic pattern, when the accident helicopter came into his
view. At the same time, the airplane appeared in his field of
view as it“flew through the rotor system”of the helicopter.
The pilot of the accident airplane was not immediately
available for interview.
The airplane pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings
for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane.
His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was
issued April 31, 2014. He reported 1,080 total hours of
flight experience, of which 1,000 hours were in the accident
airplane make and model.
The flight instructor held commercial pilot and flight
instructor certificates with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter
and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-
class medical certificate was issued April 31, 2014.
Examination of his logbook revealed 832 total hours of
flight experience, of which 116 hours were in the accident
helicopter make and model.
The pilot receiving instruction held commercial pilot and
flight instructor certificates with ratings for airplane single
engine land, multiengine land, rotorcraft-helicopter and
FDK was located at an elevation of 306 feet and the air
traffic control tower was operating at the time of the
accident. The published traffic pattern altitude for single-
engine and light-twin airplanes was 1,300 feet mean sea
level (msl), and 1,800 feet msl for heavy multiengine and
jet airplanes. The traffic pattern was a standard left-hand
pattern, and there was no published traffic pattern or
altitude for helicopters.
The helicopter wreckage and its associated debris
came to rest in a self-storage complex between two
buildings, with parts and debris scattered in and around
the complex. All major components were accounted for
at the scene. The main wreckage came to rest largely
upright, and included the cockpit, cabin area, fuselage,
tailboom, engine, transmission, and main and tail rotors.
All components were significantly damaged and deformed
by impact forces. The“blue”main rotor blade was fractured
near its root, and the outboard 11 feet of main rotor spar
was located 50 feet from the main wreckage with no
honeycomb or blade skin afterbody material attached.
Control continuity could not be established due to
numerous fractures in the system, but all fractures exhibited
features consistent with overload.
The airplane came to rest nose down, in a dense thicket
of brush and low trees, wedged between tree trunks,
and held in that position. All major components were
accounted for at the scene, except for the right wing flap,
aileron, and right landing gear wheel and tire assembly,
which were located between the helicopter and airplane
sites. Examination of the airplane revealed that the trailing
edge of the right wing was impact-damaged. The flap and
aileron hinges were significantly damaged and twisted,
and the surrounding sheet metal displayed “saw-tooth”
fractures, consistent with overload.
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