ASN logo
ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 172555
Last updated: 15 August 2021
This information is added by users of ASN. Neither ASN nor the Flight Safety Foundation are responsible for the completeness or correctness of this information. If you feel this information is incomplete or incorrect, you can submit corrected information.

Time:10:25 EST
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: N771MM
MSN: 2644
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Location:100 yards North of Palm Beach County Park, Lake Worth, Florida -   United States of America
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Departure airport:Palm Beach County Park Airport, Lake Worth, Florida (LNA)
Destination airport:Palm Beach County Park Airport, Lake Worth, Florida (LNA)
On December 29, 2014, at 10:25 EST (Eastern Standard Time), a Robinson R22 Beta, N771MM, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while performing an autorotation near Palm Beach County Park Airport (LNA), Lake Worth, Florida. The flight instructor (CFI) was fatally injured, and the student pilot sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the local instructional flight, which departed about 0940. The flight was operated by Palm Beach Helicopters, Inc., and was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

A witness, who was a CFI, reported that he and a student were taxiing their airplane to runway 15 for takeoff when they heard the accident helicopter announce its position on a right base leg, with the intent to conduct an autorotation to taxiway Bravo. The CFI then offered to hold at the airplane's present position to allow the helicopter more room to conduct the maneuver. He stated that the helicopter pilot thanked him, and shortly thereafter, he observed the helicopter enter a "rapid descent typical of [autorotation]" from an altitude of between 800-1,000 feet above ground level (agl). About 500 feet agl, the helicopter appeared to level off, then pitched abruptly nose-down and descended to ground contact. Just prior to impact, he heard a panicked radio transmission from the helicopter that was mostly unintelligible. He also stated that, based on the accent he heard, he believed the CFI onboard the helicopter was conducting all radio transmissions.

Another CFI, who was taxiing a helicopter with a student on the south side of the airport, reported hearing the accident helicopter transmit, "we're going in the grass" over the airport's common traffic advisory frequency. Shortly thereafter, an airplane in the airport traffic pattern reported that there was a helicopter down, and the CFI in the helicopter flew to the accident site to render assistance.

In a statement to law enforcement two days after the accident, the student pilot recounted that he and the CFI were practicing autorotations following a simulated engine failure. The student stated that he could not recall whether he or the CFI initiated the autorotation. About 100 feet above ground level, the CFI said, "We're going down, we're going down," and at that time, the CFI was controlling the helicopter. The student stated that, until that point, the autorotation had "appeared pretty normal," and he added, "I don't know if the engine cut off, or the engine didn't turn back on."

In a subsequent interview, conducted about two weeks after the accident, the student stated that the flight was Lesson 2 in Stage 3 of the school's private pilot training course. He reported that he could not recall most of the accident flight, but recalled that prior to the accident, he and the CFI had been flying for approximately 40 minutes and had conducted 2 or 3 steep approaches as well as a maximum-performance takeoff. The accident autorotation was the first of the accident flight. He stated that he could not recall who initiated the autorotation or the rotor rpm indication during the maneuver. He remembered that the CFI was controlling the helicopter as it descended through about 100 feet above ground level, and as the CFI rolled on the throttle in an attempt to recover, there was no response from the engine. The CFI stated, "We're going down, we're going down." The student also stated that, on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, he observed the CFI using his cell phone and stated that he appeared to be conducting a video call, as he briefly saw someone on the phone's screen. He stated that the CFI turned the phone to face outside of the helicopter as if he was showing the view out the helicopter's windscreen to the individual on the phone. He could not recall when the CFI discontinued the use of the phone.

In a written statement provided after the interview, the student recalled that the CFI "asked for the controls," on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern prior to entering the autorotation. The student stated that he "handed over the controls and looked south out my door enjoying the view." The student then recalled looking at the ground "in a nose down attitude" as the helicopter descended, and seeing the CFI "fighting with the cyclic and collective."

Surveillance video from a building near the accident site captured approximately the last 2 seconds of the flight before impact, and showed the helicopter descending rapidly at a steep angle.

Probable Cause: A main rotor stall due to low rotor rpm, which resulted in an uncontrolled descent into terrain. Contributing to the accident was the flight instructor’s delayed remedial action.


2. FAA register:


Revision history:

29-Dec-2014 17:26 Anon. Added
29-Dec-2014 18:57 Geno Updated [Other fatalities, Location, Narrative]
29-Dec-2014 19:48 Aerossurance Updated [Source, Narrative]
29-Dec-2014 21:05 Alpine Flight Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Operator, Narrative]
08-Jan-2015 04:30 Geno Updated [Time, Location, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Damage]
09-Apr-2015 07:00 Aerossurance Updated [Source]
17-Oct-2016 20:21 Dr.John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Location, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
21-Dec-2016 19:28 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
19-Aug-2017 13:53 ASN Update Bot Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
17-Aug-2018 21:02 Dr.John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Other fatalities, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description