Accident Robinson R44 N144WT, Friday 28 June 2002
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Date:Friday 28 June 2002
Type:Silhouette image of generic R44 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Robinson R44
Owner/operator:Wilkinson Rental Tools, Inc.
Registration: N144WT
MSN: 0601
Year of manufacture:1999
Total airframe hrs:1335 hours
Engine model:Lycoming O-540-F1B5
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Location:West Houston Airport near Houston, Texas -   United States of America
Phase: Take off
Departure airport:West Houston Airport near Houston, Texas (IWS/KIWS)
Destination airport:Mandeville, St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana
Investigating agency: NTSB
Confidence Rating: Information verified through data from accident investigation authorities
On June 28, 2002, at 10:15 CDT (Central Daylight Time), a Robinson R44 helicopter, N144WT, was substantially damaged during takeoff from the West Houston Airport near Houston, Texas. The helicopter was registered to Wilkinson Rental Tools, Inc., of Lafayette, Louisiana, and operated by the pilot, Merwin H Wilkinson. The private pilot, sole occupant of the helicopter, was not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The flight was originating at the time of the accident, and was destined for Mandeville, Louisiana.

The pilot reported to an FAA inspector that while attempting to takeoff, he "lifted" the helicopter vertically to a 4-5 foot hover and proceeded to make a 10 degree left pedal turn to a northerly direction. The pilot applied forward pressure on the cyclic to initiate forward flight and in a "matter of 10 to 15 feet, the rear portion of the left skid went down abruptly." The pilot immediately added forward right cyclic to compensate for this action. The helicopter started to level at an altitude of approximately 2-3 feet when it settled "hard" on the front portion of the left skid. The helicopter came to rest upright on its landing skids.

According to a witness, he observed the helicopter lift off, make a bank to the left then sharper to its right, and then very sharply to its left. Then it made a 180-degree turn descending sharply and steeply into the ground. A second witness, observed a chain attached to the left skid when the helicopter lifted off. About 3-4 feet off the ground, the helicopter movement was subdued by the chain and began to "sway" violently one direction and then another. The tail boom and left strut hit the ground, but the pilot was able to land the helicopter and shut it down.

According to the FAA inspector, who responded to the accident site, a broken tie down chain was found that had been attached to the aft portion of the helicopter skid. According to the pilot, he had not placed the tie down there. An examination of the helicopter revealed that the lower portion of the vertical stabilizer was wrinkled with a tear in the leading edge. The left side of the fuselage had damage in the vicinity of the forward skid cross tube. The main rotor mast fairing was buckled directly above the cabin.

The 7,800-hour pilot reported that he had accumulated a total of 721 hours in helicopters, all of them in the same make and model as the accident aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's loss of control after encountering dynamic rollover during takeoff. A contributing factor was the pilot's inadequate preflight inspection.

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Report number: FTW02LA197
Status: Investigation completed
Download report: Final report


1. NTSB Accident Number: FTW02LA197 at
2. FAA:

Revision history:

16-Oct-2018 00:01 Dr.John Smith Added

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description

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