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Preliminary report released on Hamakua helicopter crash

KAILUA-KONA — An engine out light and alarm preceded a helicopter’s hard landing Feb. 21 near Kukuihaele, according to federal investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board on March 27 released its preliminary report on the crash that “seriously injured” a 39-year-old commercial pilot. A final report, with the crash’s probable cause, is still forthcoming.

The NTSB said the pilot took off from Hilo International Airport in the McDonnel Douglas MD 369E helicopter for a “positioning flight.”

While maneuvering to land at an off-airport pick up site, the pilot told investigators that as he started the approach to land, he observed, out of the corner of his eye, a yellow flash followed by a red flash.

“The pilot then looked inside the helicopter and saw the engine out light illuminate and heard an alarm activate,” the preliminary report says.

The pilot also reported noticing the exhaust temperature was at about 1,668 degrees and the engine torque gauge indicated 0 percent.

The pilot established an “autorotational descent” and found a suitable landing area about 1 mile southeast of Kukuihaele. He touched down on private land near the 7.5-mile marker of Honokaa-Waipio Road (Highway 240), close to the Waipio lookout.

“During touchdown, the tail rotor assemble and left skid assembly broke away followed by the helicopter rolling to the left,” the report says, noting the helicopter ultimately came to a rest on its left side with the engine still running. “The pilot shutdown the engine and exited through the front wind screen area with the help of witnesses.”

The pilot was taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital for care.

The helicopter, registered to K&S Helicopters and operated by Paradise Helicopters, sustained “substantial damage” to its fuselage and tail boom.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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