7 Survive Aerospatiale Accident in Arizona

On December 6, 2009, about 1030 Pacific standard time, an Aerospatiale AS 355F1 helicopter, N548SA, was substantially damaged during cruise flight following the left engine cowling door opening in flight near Temple Bar, Arizona. The helicopter was registered to and operated by HeliUSA Airways Inc., Las Vegas, Nevada, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. The commercial pilot and six passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight. The air tour flight originated from the Mc Carran International Airport (LAS), Las Vegas, about 1000, with an intended destination of Grand Canyon, Arizona.

The pilot reported that during cruise flight, he heard a “thumping” noise followed by slight feedback within the cyclic control. The pilot contacted a second company helicopter to have them visually inspect the helicopter in flight. The pilot of the second helicopter informed the pilot that the left engine cowling appeared to be open and partially separated. The pilot initiated a precautionary landing to a dirt road and landed without further incident.

FAA Findings

Examination of the helicopter by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that two of the three main rotor blades were damaged. One main rotor blade exhibited a one-inch long gouge about one-quarter of an inch in depth near the blade root. A portion of the left engine cowling was separated and not located.

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