Montana DNRC helicopter crashed and burned
The SAFECOM report on the helicopter which crashed and burned while working on the Deep Creek Canyon Fire which had been posted and then deleted, has reappeared on the site. It is possible that since it was originally published only two days after the incident, it had to be fine-tuned to ensure it was accurate and complete.
The UH-1H / MT205 operated by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation suffered a hard landing, then flipped over and caught fire while attempting to land on a helipad on June 15, 2021 .
At the top of this article is the first section of the report. Below is the full story and corrective action.
Hard landing incident Deep Creek Canyon fire June 15, 2021. At approximately 5:00 pm, Bell MT 205 N398M. Pilot. The following is a summary of the pilot’s perspective on the events leading up to the hard landing incident on the Deep Creek Canyon fire.
On June 15, 2021, the N398M was dispatched around 3:20 p.m. to retrieve a Helitack team from the Central Land Office (CLO) to respond to the Deep Creek Canyon fire. The N398M aircraft was dispatched from a fire it was carrying out from the Clinton Montana Volunteer Fire Department (VFD), directly to CLO. At the CLO, the N398M loaded a crew of 4, a helicopter manager and 3 helicopter crew members manifested with their equipment at 11:10 a.m. The N398M also refueled at around 1400 lb. The load calculation was based on the worst case at 6,000 feet and 34 degrees Celsius, and all parameters for a safe take-off and landing were met based on these calculations.
The take-off from the CLO was uneventful, the winds were from the northwest and the aircraft power was as expected. Earlier today, en route to the Clinton VFD light, a power assurance was completed with a final calculation 34 degrees cooler than target.
As the N398M approached the Deep Creek Canyon fire, the pilot was monitoring air-to-air traffic and 12 miles outside called an air attack to request entry. They cleared entry at 6,000 feet or less with an altimeter setting of 2987. The pilot was aware of the radio traffic to the N388M helicopter, which he was returning to the trough and ordered to remain in the trough for a drop. ‘an oil tanker. The pilot of the N398M visually acquired the N388M and at about the same time the manager of the N398M asked if the pilot had a visual, which was confirmed. After passing behind N388M, the pilot of N398M noticed that N388M turned to the southwest while hovering.
As N398M approached the helispot, the pilot contacted the director of N388M who cleared the aircraft to enter. The pilot received only part of his transmission but saw him gesture at the landing spot at the western end of the take-off tarmac, and the pilot of the N398M observed signs of winds coming from the willow trees in a southwest direction.
N398M crossed the landing pad on a downwind downwind approach to give the best visual of the landing pad. After turning into base and final at about 500 feet, the pilot of the N398M immediately noticed that the aircraft was coming to a stop and felt that it could experience an almost direct tailwind. The airspeed of the N398M was the approach speed at this point and did not have sufficient altitude to simply take off, as the aircraft was “clearing its way” with little or no collective effect applied. The pilot relaxed the application of collective, expecting assistance from ground effect, but this did not occur.
Realizing that a hard landing was imminent and that although the aircraft had not completely completed its final turn, the pilot leveled the helicopter as it collided about 10 degrees from the direction of landing and resulted in a right lateral drift. On impact, the aircraft rotated to the right approximately 120 degrees and rolled to the left and rolled over. The pilot released his belt buckle and fell into the top of the cockpit. The pilot was disoriented and was standing upside down in the cockpit. The pilot quickly realized that the engine was still running and had difficulty locating the fuel cutout and electrical cutouts. Finally, the pilot located the fuel stop and also returned all the electrical switches to the aft position. While the pilot was doing this, he noticed that the aircraft was on fire and knew that at least two crew members had already exited the helicopter. The pilot looked in the aft cabin to make sure no one else was trapped. A crew member yelled at the pilot that everyone was out, at which point the pilot crawled himself.
As the pilot approached the crew, he noticed that the helicopter manager’s face was covered in blood, but the rest of the crew appeared to be fine. Shortly after, an ambulance team arrived and examined all of the injuries sustained. The pilot initially refused medical attention, and the N398M operator was taken to an emergency room in Townsend, MT.
As the adrenaline wore off, the pilot noticed pain in his neck and mid-back and when the ambulance crew returned he agreed to a medical evaluation. His neck was reinforced as a precaution and he was taken to the emergency room for an x-ray and a CT scan. The pilot also asked them to take a blood and urine sample for toxicological purposes. All toxicology reports came back clear. Hospital staff administered a muscle relaxant and IV for dehydration. The pilot was handed over around 2000 to the chief pilot of the MT DNRC. The pilot was taken to the DNRC hangar by security guards from 2 MT of the DNRC as well as by the chief pilot. The chief pilot asked the pilot of the N398M to write a statement, after which a DNRC security guard escorted the pilot home.
MT DNRC flight operations personnel and safety officers believe this was a preventable accident had more specific reconnaissance procedures been followed, which would have given the pilot more time to assess the conditions. wind at helibase. MT DNRC Air Operations will begin to retrain the pilot in wind assessment and recognition of adverse wind conditions to include a reminder on visual cues for grass, trees, water, dust in order to better interpret the direction and speed of the winds in the area, appropriate high reconnaissance before committing to low reconnaissance before starting the final approach for landing.
MT DNRC Air Operations will also retrain in the areas of aerodynamics with special attention given to the areas of stabilization with LTE power and loss of tail rotor efficiency. Other areas covered will be the limitations of the operator’s manual for the MT-205 and the limitations of the 1500 and NSHO manual. In addition, the message to all of our aviation personnel that it is always prudent to make sure to take the time to make a proper assessment of all the information available before committing to a landing, the extra time spent will only improve the positive result of the operation.