NTSB Identification: LAX98GA127
Accident occurred MAR-23-98 at LOS ANGELES, CA Aircraft: Bell 205A-1, registration: N90230 Injuries: 4 Fatal, 2 Serious.
On March 23, 1998, about 0740 hours Pacific standard time, a Bell
205A-1, N90230, owned and operated by the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD),
California, as a public-use aircraft, experienced an in-flight tail rotor system failure.
During the attempted forced landing, the helicopter impacted trees and terrain
approximately 1.5 miles northwest of its destination. The purpose of the flight was to
provide air ambulance transportation for a seriously injured child. Visual meteorological
conditions prevailed. The helicopter was destroyed, and the commercial certificated pilot
and one crewmember were seriously injured. Three additional crewmembers and the passenger
sustained fatal injuries. The local area flight originated from the Van Nuys Airport,
California, about 0722. Upon dispatch, the helicopter proceeded about 8 miles northeast
and landed about 0729 at the Stonehurst Elementary School playground, near the scene of an
automobile traffic accident. The 11-year-old trauma patient (passenger) was loaded into
the helicopter, and the pilot took off about 0731. Using the air traffic control call sign
of "Lifeguard Fire Three," the pilot proceeded over Burbank in a
south-southeasterly direction directly toward the Children's Hospital. About 0737, during
cruise flight over Griffith Park, the pilot experienced a partial loss of control and
transmitted that he was experiencing an emergency. About 1/2 minute later, the pilot
indicated that he was making a forced landing. During the wreckage examination the
helicopter's two tail rotor blades and the adjacent 90-degree gear box were observed
missing from the tail boom. These components were subsequently located on a hillside
debris path within approximately 0.1 mile of each other, and about 1 mile north of the
main wreckage. The yoke assembly, which normally secures the rotor blades together and
connects to the drive shaft, was observed fractured. A local metallurgical laboratory
reported the yoke had a fatigue fracture. The investigation is continuing to determine
pertinent facts and circumstances related to the event(s) which initiated the fracture.
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