2 confirmed dead after helicopter crash in Lino Lakes, Minnesota

An airport mechanic tells Fox 9 he saw the helicopter functioning strangely Thursday afternoon and watched the pilot struggle with it. The helicopter would later crash, killing the two people on board.

- The Anoka County Sheriff's Office confirmed two people died in a Thursday, Oct. 6 helicopter crash in Lino Lakes, Minnesota. The emergency call came in around 5:28 p.m. Thursday, reporting the crash near Sunset Avenue and Main Street.

According to the sheriff: "Witness statements describe a helicopter that was traveling in a northeast direction suddenly experiencing distress. Some describe hearing a loud pop or explosion and seeing the helicopter's rotors stop spinning and the helicopter falling from the sky and breaking apart. The amount of debris and the area in which it was scattered suggest the aircraft was breaking apart as it fell from the sky.

The pilot and passenger are confirmed dead. The Anoka County Sheriff's Office confirmed the pilot was a 48-year-old man from Minneapolis and his passenger was a 47-year-old woman from Blaine, Minn.

The sheriff's office said the 1982 Fairchild Hiller FH-1100 helicopter was in flight earlier on Thursday with no known mechanical issues. It’s believed the second, fatal flight originated from the Anoka County Airport in Blaine.

Aircraft mechanic Kurt Ericson told Fox 9 he witnessed the pilot struggling with the doomed helicopter Thursday afternoon before he took off from the Anoka County Airport.

“He spent about 20 minutes out at runway 9 trying to get it into a hover,” Ericson said. “It appeared it was having difficulties. He wasn’t maintaining a nice and level hover.”

Based on what he saw, Ericson said he never would have left the ground.

“I wouldn’t have flown it yesterday,” he said. “I’m surprised he took off. It had too many problems. It wasn’t even sounding right. I wouldn’t have flown it.”

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation in the cause of the crash.

If you find debris, call police

If you find any metal or unusual objects in your yard or property that may be debris from the helicopter crash near Main Street and Sunset, please contact the Lino Lakes Police Department at (763) 427-1212. Do not pick up or move the object.

Same helicopter had previous accidents

FAA and NTSB records show the helicopter that crashed in Lino Lakes had a registration number of N4035G. The same helicopter was previously registered to a Florida company, and was involved in two previous accidents, including an incident with some striking similarities to the Lino Lakes crash. In 2006, the helicopter made an emergency landing in shallow water off a Florida beach after the pilot “heard a bang and felt a slight shudder of the aircraft.”

NTSB report on 2006 accident

“On June 8, 2006, about 1232 central daylight time, a Fairchild Hiller FH-1100, N4035G, registered to and operated by Helicopters of NW Florida, Inc., experienced separation of a tail rotor blade during cruise flight near Navarre, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the 14 CFR Part 91 personal flight from Pullum Pad, Navarre, Florida, to a business located in Century, Florida. The helicopter was substantially damaged and there were no injuries to the commercial-rated pilot or pilot-rated passenger. The flight originated about 1225, from Pullum Pad, Navarre, Florida.

“The pilot stated that during level flight at 600 feet and 100-110 miles-per-hour, flying westbound along the intercoastal waterway, he heard a bang and "felt a slight shudder of the aircraft." He immediately entered a descent for a precautionary landing to a beach, and while descending, did not experience any loss of directional control and no abnormal vibration. He maintained the power setting at 100 percent, and when the flight was at 50 feet, he entered a "gentle" flare and brought the helicopter to level flight at 30 feet. At that time, the helicopter began to yaw to the right which left anti-torque pedal input did not correct. He then immediately retarded the throttle, and executed a hover autorotation to shallow water along the beach. The helicopter was removed from the water and placed on the beach for further examination.

“Examination of the helicopter by an FAA airworthiness inspector revealed one of the tail rotor blades was separated and not recovered, while the other tail rotor blade assembly remained attached to the hub. Approximately 6.5 inches of the main spar of the ventral fin was separated. The separated section of ventral fin structure remained secured to the tail rotor gearbox, which remained partially secured to the helicopter by the anti-torque cables. There was no evidence of bird contact on any remaining portion of the helicopter or tail rotor blade. The tail rotor hub assembly and gearbox were retained for further examination.

“Examination of the tail rotor gearbox and tail rotor hub assembly was performed by the FAA, and attended by a representative of the helicopter manufacturer. Visual examination of the tail rotor gearbox revealed the output shaft and pitch change rod were bent 15 degrees. The input shaft flex coupling was broken; rotational scoring was noted on the input shaft flange. Disassembly of the gearbox revealed no impact signatures on the helical gear faces. The unit was properly serviced, and no signs of contamination were noted. No abnormal wear was noted. Examination of the tail rotor hub assembly pertaining to the separated tail rotor blade revealed the laminated stainless steel plates of the tension-torsion bar were fractured; 5 semi-circular pieces of the stainless steel laminated plates were recovered. The fractured tension-torsion bar assembly was retained for further examination. The remaining tail rotor blade assembly was removed from the tail rotor hub, and the laminated stainless steel plates that comprise the tension-torsion bar assembly were not fractured or failed. Visual examination of the holes on each end of the laminated stainless steel plates revealed "manufacturing (stamping) marks on the individual straps." The intact tension-torsion bar assembly was also retained for further examination.

“Examination of the fractured and intact tension-torsion bar assemblies was performed by the NTSB Materials Laboratory located in Washington, D.C. No markings (serial number) was noted on either tension-torsion bar assembly. Examination of the fractured tension-torsion bar assembly revealed only 6 of the 11 laminated stainless steel plates remained secured to the bolt at the tail rotor hub end. The opposite ends of the all 6 plates were fractured near the eye. Examination of the fracture surfaces of the 6 stainless steel laminated plates and also of the 5 fractured semi-circular pieces revealed none of the fracture surfaces matched, i.e., the received pieces from the fractured tension-torsion bar constituted samples from all 11 stainless steel laminated plates from the fractured tension-torsion bar assembly. Further examination of the fracture surfaces of the 11 laminated plates revealed 8 of the 11 plates exhibited fatigue progression. Fatigue was noted in 1 of the 11 plates on both ends of the plate. The fatigue initiated on the inner diameter surface of the eye and progressed outward. "…normal to the long axis of the strap." The extent of the fatigue ranged from an estimated 10 percent of the fracture surface to about 90 percent. The remainder of the fracture surface was ductile dimpled overstress, generally oriented on a slant plane through the strap thickness. The inner diameter surfaces of the straps mostly showed circumferential marks consistent with reamed surfaces; however, all of the fatigue origin areas were located in "rougher textured regions consistent with sheared surfaces from original manufacture of the straps." The inner diameter surfaces of the intact eyes of both stainless steel laminated plates exhibited "…similar (reamed and sheared) surfaces on the intact eyes of the straps. Additionally two small cracks were uncovered in separate straps from the fractured TT bar. No cracks were visually apparent in the eyes of the intact TT bar." The stainless steel plate material was consistent with AISI type 300 series stainless steel.

“The helicopter was manufactured on October 18, 1982, and had accumulated 374.0 hours since manufacture at the time of the accident. The helicopter was involved in a previous accident on February 18, 1985, which was investigated by the NTSB and assigned case number DEN85LA079. The helicopter was not operated from February 18, 1985, to February 5, 2003. The helicopter was operated 4.3 hours between February 5, 2003, and December 23, 2004, and was operated for 164 hours between December 23, 2004, and the date of the accident. The maintenance records indicated that the tension-torsion bar assemblies serial number were 2019, and 2059, and the part number for each was 24-55106. There was no record that the tension-torsion bar assemblies were replaced, or repaired since manufacture.”


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