Liberty Helicopter Sightseeing Tour Ditched After Experiencing A Reduction Of Main Rotor RPM




NTSB Identification: MIA07FA116
Accident occurred Saturday, July 07, 2007 in New York, NY
Aircraft: Eurocopter France EC130B4, registration: N453AE
Injuries: 8 Uninjured.

On July 7, 2007, about 1651 eastern daylight time, an Eurocopter EC130B4 helicopter, N453AE, registered to Meridian Consulting Company, Inc., operated by Liberty Helicopters, Inc., was autorotated onto the Hudson River, New York, New York, after experiencing a reduction of main rotor RPM. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 revenue sightseeing flight from West 30th Street Heliport, New York, New York. The helicopter was substantially damaged and there were no injuries to the commercial-rated pilot or seven passengers. The flight originated about 1643, from West 30th Street Heliport. 

The pilot stated that she had flown the accident helicopter on 3 previous flights that day and reported no discrepancies on those flights. The accident flight departed for a 10 minute sightseeing flight. All passengers were wearing inflatable life vests which were contained in a pouch that was strapped around their waist. She was approximately 8 minutes into the flight, and was flying southbound (left base to final), or approximately 1/2 mile from the point where she would have turned onto final approach for the heliport. She heard a loud bang, and felt an abnormal vibration (medium to low). 

At that time she was flying at approximately 350-400 feet, and at 100-110 knots. The bang was the first thing that got her attention; there was no yaw. She saw gray colored debris that was rectangular in shape and approximately 8 inches in length fly from the aft left to front left, then the debris went out of sight. She then heard a "winding down" of the main rotor rpm, but did not hear the low rotor warning horn. The main rotor rpm decay was immediate. She looked at the dual tachometer but did not recall the main rotor rpm reading. She entered autorotation by applying down collective, and aft cyclic, and also deployed the floats. The vibration was abnormal (prominent). She performed a slight flare at 25 feet, and the helicopter settled from that altitude. She applied forward cyclic, and the helicopter landed "soft" on the choppy water. There was no depth perception problem. The helicopter was level at the point of touchdown, and at that time she had 1/2 up collective applied. She reported there was no binding of the flight controls from the time of hearing the sound to the point of touchdown on the water. 

After touchdown, she noted that the main rotor blades were tiled to the right, the tail rotor was still spinning, and the engine was still running. She did not report hearing any horn or seeing any lights, and she did not make any radio calls. She helped the front seat passengers remove their restraints and exit the helicopter. One of the rear seat passengers helped the other rear seat occupants exit from the helicopter. The pilot and passenger's were rescued from the water by private boat'

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