Accident McDonnell Douglas MD 500E (369E) N311VT, Tuesday 4 October 2016
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Date:Tuesday 4 October 2016
Type:Silhouette image of generic H500 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
McDonnell Douglas MD 500E (369E)
Owner/operator:Volcano Helicopters Inc
Registration: N311VT
MSN: 0229E
Year of manufacture:1987
Total airframe hrs:17334 hours
Engine model:Rolls Royce 250 C20R/2
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 3
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Location:Kohala Mountain, Pu‘u O Umi Reserve, Hawaii, HI -   United States of America
Phase: Initial climb
Nature:Passenger - Non-Scheduled/charter/Air Taxi
Departure airport:Hilo International Airport, HI (ITO/PHTO)
Destination airport:Hilo International Airport, HI (ITO/PHTO)
Investigating agency: NTSB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
The commercial pilot reported that, after completing an external cargo lift operation, he landed at a remote location to jettison the lift cable and to board the two ground workers for a ferry flight back to their home base. Shortly after liftoff, the pilot felt a moderate aberration in the cyclic flight control, followed by a significant vertical vibration. The pilot subsequently observed that the main rotor (MR) blade track had a substantial blade spread. Subsequently, the pilot conducted a forced emergency landing to a nearby suitable area.
A postaccident examination of the helicopter revealed that one MR blade was missing about 9 inches of its blade tip, consistent with impact with an object of substantial mass, possibly a cable; the damage was not consistent with separation of the blade end due to a preexisting condition. Two other MR blades exhibited scuff marks and scratches along their leading edges with areas that had defined parallel scratches, consistent with cable impact.
The pilot reported that he released the lift cable before the flight, and it was not recovered. The pilot added that, after he released the cable, the ground crew placed the coiled cable in the rear compartment that had no doors. Examination of the lift cable release mechanism revealed no damage to the component, and additional testing revealed no anomalies that would have precluded normal operation of the lift cable mechanism.
There is no evidence that the lift cable remained attached to the hook during the accident flight; therefore, it was likely in the passenger compartment at liftoff as reported by the pilot. Therefore, based on the damage to the MR blades, it is likely that the cable exited the helicopter during liftoff and subsequently impacted the MR, which resulted in the separation of an MR blade tip and the vertical vibration of the helicopter.

Probable Cause: Impact of the lift cable after it exited the helicopter during liftoff with the main rotor (MR) blades, which resulted in the separation of an MR blade tip and the vertical vibration of the helicopter.

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Report number: WPR17LA005
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 4 months
Download report: Final report


FAA register:


Revision history:

05-Oct-2016 14:49 Geno Added
04-Nov-2016 20:25 Aerossurance Updated [Time, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
03-Feb-2018 14:03 Aerossurance Updated [Narrative]
07-Feb-2018 13:49 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Damage, Narrative, Plane category]
10-Jun-2023 05:17 Ron Averes Updated

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