Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel, G-BXGA, 20 January 2006

Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel, G-BXGA

Summary:

The aircraft had been employed on an underslung load lifting task in a mountainous area. On completion, the pilot manoeuvred the helicopter to pick up two ground personnel who had been hooking on the loads. The first landing site he considered was unsuitable because of its rocky surface, so the pilot manoeuvred the helicopter to hover over another possible site, which was at an elevation of 1,900 feet amsl. This had a more acceptable surface but was adjacent to a steep slope that included a boulder in the pilot’s two o’clock position. The surface wind was from 250? at 20 to 30 kt which, with the helicopter on a heading of about 350?, gave a turbulent crosswind from the left. While assessing this landing site from the hover, the pilot felt a vibration through the cyclic control. Realising that the main rotor blades had struck the boulder, he immediately manoeuvred the helicopter away from the hover. Because the controls felt normal, he selected a third site, where he landed successfully. The ground personnel were embarked, while the helicopter’s rotors remained running, and G-BXGA was flown one nautical mile to the refuelling landing site without further incident. Noticeable vibration was felt as the helicopter was shut down and an initial inspection revealed damage to the tips of each of the three main rotor blades. No other damage was found. The aircraft flight manual states that hovering with wind from any direction has been substantiated over the entire flight envelope up to winds of 17 kt, although this is not to be taken as a limit. For example hover at sea level at maximum weight, for all CG locations, has been substantiated at 30 kt. The operator has since issued a memorandum to all pilots reminding them that they should land immediately and shut down if they suffer a blade strike. The commander of the helicopter was one week into a contract with the operator. He no longer works for the company.

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Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel, G-BXGA 04-06.pdf (209.85 kb)

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