On January 29, 2018, about 1725 eastern standard time, a Bell OH-58C, N942SC, operated by the Spalding County Sheriff's Department, was substantially damaged during a hard landing after a loss of engine power near Zebulon, Georgia. The flight instructor and the student pilot were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the public use instructional flight.
In written statement and a telephone interview, the flight instructor stated the purpose of the flight was to provide flight training to a sheriff's department detective. He said that the accident occurred at the completion of the 5th simulated engine failure of the flight. When the throttle was advanced for the power recovery, the engine accelerated and the engine and rotor tachometer needles "joined" in the normal operating range of the dual engine/rotor tachometer.
Once normal operating rpm was achieved for the engine and rotor, the flight instructor initiated a climb. Approximately "4 to 5 seconds" into the climb about 25 knots and 125 ft above ground level, the engine stopped producing power. The flight instructor selected a field and completed the forced landing. He said that due to "low rotor rpm" he performed an aggressive flare to build rpm and cushion the landing. The tail of one skid along with the tail stinger struck the ground and the main rotor contacted the tailboom before the helicopter came to rest upright.
The flight instructor held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single engine land, rotorcraft-helicopter, and instrument airplane and helicopter. He held a flight instructor certificate with the same ratings. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) third-class medical certificate was issued March 22, 2016. The flight instructor estimated he had 5,800 total hours of flight experience of which 200 hours were in the OH-58C.
The helicopter was manufactured in 1968 for the United States Army and was acquired by the Spalding County Sheriff's Department for public use. It was maintained under an annual inspection program. The most recent annual inspection was completed July 14, 2017 at 8,596 total aircraft hours and had accrued 56.9 hours since that date.
At 1755, the weather reported at Griffin-Spalding County Airport (6A2), 6 miles northeast of the accident site included clear skies, 10 miles visibility, and winds from 350° at 8 knots gusting to 19 knots. The temperature was 14° C, the dew point was -7° C, and the altimeter setting was 30.08 inches of mercury.
The wreckage was examined at the accident site by an FAA inspector and all major components were accounted for at the scene. Examination of photographs revealed substantial damage to the tailboom near the fuselage (buckling) and evidence of a strike to the tail rotor driveshaft cover. Continuity of flight and engine controls was confirmed by an airframe and powerplant mechanic. The helicopter was retained for further examination.