AIRCRAFT – HELICOPTER

Case Description

During a helicopter flight for a film crew, a helicopter crashed while attempting a maneuver.  There was a witness on the ground who thought he heard an engine failure or a period of silence prior to the sound of the crash.  Subsequently, there was an allegation of engine failure.

 

Steps Taken:

  • ARCCA’s expert reviewed all photographs and investigation reports by the FAA, police, and fire departments.
  • Police report interviews revealed no evidence of engine failure, including interviews with survivors of the crash.
  • Photographs of the airframe teardown revealed no evidence of a power transmission failure.
  • The engine was videotaped by investigators showing that it was capable of running even after the accident.
  • Included with the photographs were pictures of damage to several buildings as the helicopter neared the ground.
  • With knowledge of the building construction from the photographs, published data of impact testing of the building components, mechanical property and speed of the rotors, and experience with energy containment, the expert was able to perform an analysis to determine whether or not the damage could have been done without engine power or transmission.

 

 

Final Findings:

Based on his analysis, ARCCA’s expert was able to determine that the rotors required engine power in order to produce the amount of damage seen on the buildings.  This analysis corroborated the public sector investigators’ previous testing and conclusions that there was no engine failure or no power transmission failure to the main rotors prior to the crash.

Helicopters are typically powered by a single piston or turbine engine.  The engine powers through a series of clutches and transmission to gear a primary lift rotor and a tail rotor.  The controls may be a combination of mechanical, hydro-mechanical, or electro-hydro-mechanical.  Cockpit sensor gauges, warning lights, and control switches are typically electronic or electro-mechanical, and event data recorders are increasingly common on more sophisticated helicopters.

ARCCA engineers have the background, education, and experience to sort through the complex systems within a helicopter in order to root cause the cause of a helicopter crash.  They also have the experience to analyze control logic and decipher event data recordings, and the aerospace background and experience to evaluate hardware designs, control systems, and survivability.