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The Robinson R22,...one tuff little s.o.b.

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14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation

Accident occurred Saturday, September 23, 2017 in Clearwater, FL

Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R22, registration: N404TB

Injuries: 3 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.


On September 23, 2017, about 1715 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-201 airplane, N1881H, and a Robinson R22 helicopter, N44TB, were substantially damaged when they collided in mid-air over the runway at Clearwater Air Park (CLW), Clearwater, Florida. The private pilot aboard the airplane received minor injuries, and the flight instructor and a pilot-rated student aboard the helicopter were not injured. Both aircraft were owned and operated by Tampa Bay Aviation. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. Both flights were operated under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as personal flights, and no flight plans had been filed.


According to the flight instructor, the purpose of the flight was a flight review of the pilot-rated student. He indicated that he had never previously flown with the student pilot, but during the flight, both were wearing headsets. The student pilot proceeded to the hover practice area and executed multiple practice maneuvers. All radio calls were made during every turn while in the airport traffic pattern. The instructor performed all radio calls at each leg of the airport traffic pattern during the first approach; while the pilot-rated student made the radio calls at each leg of the airport traffic pattern during the second takeoff, and approach to the runway. In addition, prior to every turn, they scanned in all directions for traffic. While on a final approach, the instructor noticed a fixed-wing airplane on the base leg of the airport traffic pattern for runway 16, and he announced on the common traffic advisory frequency that they were using runway 34. They heard the pilot of the airplane say something unintelligible and then observed the airplane veer away, flying to the west. The instructor then allowed the student to continue the approach to runway 34, which terminated with a hover, touchdown, and then liftoff.


The helicopter returned to the crosswind leg of the airport traffic pattern where then turned onto base leg of the airport traffic pattern for runway 34. When the helicopter was 1 mile from the runway, the student pilot turned onto final approach to runway 34 and executed a steep approach. The flight instructor told the student to extend the flight path to the segmented circle. The helicopter came to a hover over runway 34, about 15 ft above the ground, when he heard a loud sound and felt the helicopter being pushed forward. The helicopter then began to spin, impacted the ground hard, and came to rest upright.


According to the pilot of the airplane, he was operating on the CLW common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF), and stated that between his first and second radio transmission he heard a heavy buzzing sound like a helicopter rotor with the words "34" barely distinguishable. The pilot scaned for air traffic and declared being on downwind via his radio. The pilot quickly turned to the base leg of the traffic pattern and decreased the engine power to descend. About that time he quickly scanned of the airport environment, focusing on the taxiway to runway 34, the line of trees ahead of, as well as to the back of the runway, and saw nothing unusual. He was confident his calls on the radio were heard. The pilot proceeded to land; about 2 seconds prior to the impact he saw the helicopter hovering "immobile," about 10 ft. above the runway. He recalled the tail was pointed towards the airplane and absolutely stationary. The pilot tried to avoid the helicopter, then heard a loud sound followed by the airplane inverting and sliding on its canopy. After the airplane came to a stop the pilot exited the airplane.


A review of a surveillance video showed the helicopter at a stationary hover over the runway 34 threshold. Shortly after, the airplane began climbing before colliding with the rear of the helicopter.


According to another pilot/witness that was approaching CLW, while about 2 miles west of the airport, he heard the radio call from the helicopter when it was on a 1-mile final at 500 ft. As he flew over CLW, he saw the accident outcome. He indicated that he was monitoring the CLW CTAF, and did not hear the pilot of the airplane announce his intentions.


A Federal Aviation Administration inspector examined the aircraft at the accident site and found that both the helicopter and airplane sustained substantial damage. Examination of the radio communication system in the airplane and helicopter did not reveal any anomalies.

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