Mid-air collision Incident Robinson R22 Beta N475AT, Wednesday 28 January 2015
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Date:Wednesday 28 January 2015
Type:Silhouette image of generic R22 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Robinson R22 Beta
Owner/operator:Palm Beach Helicopters
Registration: N475AT
MSN: 2701
Year of manufacture:1997
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Location:Palm Beach County Park/Lantana Airport, West Palm Beach, Florida -   United States of America
Phase: Approach
Departure airport:Lantana Airport, West Palm Beach, Florida (LNA/KNLA)
Destination airport:Lantana Airport, West Palm Beach, Florida (LNA/KNLA)
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
On January 28, 2015, about 12:00 EST (Eastern Standard Time), a Piper PA-28R-200 airplane, N54380, operated by Palm Beach Flight Training, and a Robinson R22B helicopter, N475AT, operated by Palm Beach Helicopters, collided while maneuvering for landing at Palm Beach County Park Airport (LNA), West Palm Beach, Florida. The helicopter performed a precautionary landing to the runway, while the airplane performed a go-around and subsequently landed uneventfully. The helicopter sustained substantial damage and the airplane sustained minor damage. The flight instructor and private pilot receiving instruction in the helicopter were not injured. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated pilot examiner (DPE) and commercial pilot on board the airplane were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for either instructional flight, both of which were conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The pilots in each aircraft provided written statements, and their statements were consistent throughout. The pilot in the airplane was undergoing a flight instructor practical test from the DPE, and the airplane-rated pilot in the helicopter was receiving primary rotary wing instruction.

Radar information from the FAA revealed that both aircraft were operating in the traffic pattern for runway 33 at LNA prior to the accident. The airplane was performing left traffic patterns, while the helicopter was performing right traffic patterns.

The helicopter maneuvered around the right traffic pattern and was established on a shallow final approach for a run-on landing. About the same time, the airplane was on the left downwind leg of the traffic pattern, with the applicant pilot preparing for a simulated power-off landing.

The DPE stated that while the airplane had been conducting left traffic patterns, he and the applicant had observed other helicopters in the right traffic pattern completing their approaches parallel and to the right side of runway 33. In light of these operations, the DPE advised the applicant that the airplane would remain clear of the helicopter, and to continue the approach and landing. Once the airplane entered the turn from the downwind leg and while on the final approach leg of the traffic pattern, the DPE's view of the helicopter was blocked by the cabin and right wing.

Witnesses observed the airplane overtake the helicopter from above, heard the contact, and watched the helicopter enter a rapid, controlled descent to the runway. The airplane banked sharply, the engine accelerated, and completed a go-around.

A review of the recorded radio communications revealed that the helicopter transmitted position reports on the downwind, base, and final legs of the traffic pattern. The airplane transmitted position reports for the crosswind and downwind legs only, and did not announce its intentions or its entry into the simulated power-off landing.

On its previous approach, the helicopter announced its intention to land in the grass abeam the runway, but prior to the accident; the helicopter announced only that it was "turning final." There was no specificity about a shallow approach or performing a run-on landing to the runway surface.

The airplane pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued September 16, 2014. He reported 677 total hours of flight experience, of which 22 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.

The DPE held an airline transport pilot certificate with multiple type ratings, and a flight instructor certificate with multiple ratings. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued January 16, 2014. The DPE reported 33,164 total hours of flight experience, of which 234 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.

The flight instructor in the helicopter held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates with ratings for airplane single-engine, multiengine, and rotorcraft-helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued June 26, 2014, and he reported 1,498 total hours of flight experience, of which 521 hours were in the accident helicopter make and model.

The helicopter pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land. His most recent FAA first class medical certificate was issued December 22, 2014. He reported 265 total hours of flight experience, of which 12 hours were in the accident helicopter make and model.

LNA was not tower-controlled. Runway 15/33 was 3,421 feet long and 100 feet wide, and was located along the east side of the field. The grass area on the east side of the runway was approximately 200 feet wide.

Postaccident examination of the airplane revealed damage to the cabin step. The helicopter displayed substantial damage to the leading edge and spar of one main rotor blade. The pilots of both the airplane and helicopter reported that there were no mechanical issues that would have precluded normal operation of their aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Regulations, Part 91.126 states, in part, "Each pilot of a helicopter or powered parachute must avoid the flow of fixed-wing traffic."

The FAA Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), Chapter 4, Section 4-1-9, Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers, states, "There is no substitute for alertness while in the vicinity of an airport. It is essential that pilots be alert and look for traffic and exchange traffic information when approaching or departing an airport without an operating control tower…To achieve the greatest degree of safety, it is essential that all radio-equipped aircraft transmit/receive on a common frequency identified for the purpose of airport advisories." The AIM recommends that when operating at an airport without a control tower, pilots self-announce their position on the downwind, base, and final legs of the traffic pattern.

Probable Cause: The failure of the airplane pilots to maintain an adequate visual lookout for known traffic in the traffic pattern, which resulted in a midair collision. Contributing to the accident was the failure of the airplane pilots to announce their intentions before landing, and the helicopter pilots' lack of specificity in their radio communications.


2. FAA register: http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Results.aspx?NNumbertxt=475AT
3. https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/local/report-both-pilots-fault-minor-lantana-airport-mid-air-crash/8CRZaR7H4V71zJfha9jTiP/
4. http://helihub.com/2015/01/28/28-jan-15-n475at-robinson-r22-west-palm-beach-us-florida/

Revision history:

29-Jan-2015 17:36 Geno Added
17-Oct-2016 21:05 Dr.John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Location, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
17-Oct-2016 21:08 Dr.John Smith Updated [Destination airport, Narrative]
21-Dec-2016 19:28 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
01-Dec-2017 11:49 ASN Update Bot Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
17-Aug-2018 20:01 Dr.John Smith Updated [Time, Other fatalities, Phase, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

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