NTSB releases initial report on hard landing

A Sunshine Helicopters chopper, 10 minutes out of Kahului Airport on June 17, experienced a decrease in main rotor speed, leading the pilot to engage, unsuccessfully, in several maneuvers to increase rotor speed, so he landed the aircraft in tall grass in Wailuku, the National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report on the accident said.

The Airbus AS 350 BA made a hard landing, creating “substantial damage,” structurally damaging the tail boom and fuselage, the report released July 2 said. The pilot and five passengers were not injured.

A family from Bellevue, Ill., was reportedly on a tour organized by Make A Wish. Fire officials said the chopper landed in an area north of Waihee Stream.

On June 26, an NTSB investigator interviewed a Sunshine Helicopters official, who reported what the pilot experienced. He was on his third flight of the day when during cruise flight the main rotor speed started to decrease and the low rotor warning alarm sounded, the report said.

The pilot lowered the collective pitch control to increase rotor speed, but the helicopter started to descend. He raised the collective pitch control and the main rotor started to decrease again.

At that point, the pilot entered an autorotation and landed the helicopter. Autorotation for a helicopter involves disengaging the engine from the main rotor system, so that the rotor blades move just by the upward flow of air while the copter descends, according to published reports.

After recovery, the helicopter’s engine was removed and shipped to the engine manufacturer’s facility for further examination under the supervision of the NTSB, the report said.