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NTSB Preliminary Report: Pylesville, MD



Pylesville, MD

Accident Number:


Date & Time:

04/25/2020, 1240 EDT




Hughes 369


1 None

Flight Conducted Under:

Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load

On April 25, 2020, at 1240 eastern daylight time, a Hughes 369D helicopter, N9159F, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Pylesville, Maryland. The pilot was not injured. The helicopter was operated by Haverfield Aviation as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 133 rotorcraft external load operation.

The pilot reported that while he was performing human external cargo (HEC) long line operations, he was requested by ground personnel to support the movement of a conductor powerline nearby. He proceeded to the landing zone which was about 300-400 ft from the area requiring assistance, dropped off the HEC, and via the long line, he picked up a conductor hook, all from a hover, and continued to the area that needed support. He reported that after the hook was attached to the wire, he began maneuvering for about 10-15 seconds to move the wire a short distance laterally, as a crane was supporting the weight of the wire. During the maneuvering, the pilot applied "slight aft and up pressure" to move the conductor, there was no lateral banking, and the pitch attitude was about 5°-10° nose up. After the conductor was moved to the area needed, the pilot maneuvered to remove the hook, but prior to the hook becoming free from the conductor, the helicopter entered a left yaw and the engine began "spooling down."

The pilot reported that he subsequently heard the "engine out alarm" and entered an autorotation by "slamming the collective down" and immediately pulling the belly band release levers, which was the first of two release levers that needed to be pulled to release the long line. As the helicopter entered the flare, he pulled the collective up to complete the autorotation landing, however the long line remained attached to the conductor wire and became taught, which rolled the helicopter onto its left side, where the main rotor blades impacted the ground.

Multiple witnesses on the ground reported that they heard the helicopter's engine go "quiet" shortly before the autorotation.

The pilot reported that the loss of engine power occurred about 150 ft above ground level and the helicopter impacted the ground about 4-5 seconds later. The pilot reported that he did not have sufficient time to pull the main hook emergency release lever (the second release lever) located on the cyclic control, which was why the line remained attached to the helicopter. He added that the cyclic was also equipped with a red push button that could release the main hook, however, the circuit breaker for this electrically activated release was pulled due to HEC operations being performed just prior to the accident. Figure 1 shows the location of the belly band release lever located next to the collective circled in red (on an exemplar helicopter), and the second photo on the right shows the red push button electric main hook release and the main hook release lever located on the cyclic control (on the accident helicopter).

Figure 1: View of the belly band release lever (red circle) and the main hook release lever and pushbutton 

The pilot reported that the belly band was a secondary cable support system required for when HEC operations were being performed, which they had been conducting just prior to the accident. Figure 2 shows the belly band, which is the blue band wrapped around the fuselage, and the main hook and long line circled in red.

Figure 2: View of the helicopter at the accident site with a belly band and long line

According to photographs provided by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector and the operator who examined the helicopter at the accident site, the tail boom and main/ tail rotors sustained substantial damage. Postaccident examination found 146 lbs (21.5 gallons) of fuel in the main tank, which could hold up to 421.9 lbs of usable fuel. There were no obvious signs of a catastrophic mechanical engine failure.

According to FAA airman records, the pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with a helicopter rating. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in April 2019. The pilot reported a total flight time of 12,408 hours, 8,500 hours in the make and model helicopter, and 101 hours in the past 30 days.

The helicopter was retained for further investigation. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make:





369 D

Aircraft Category:


Amateur Built:





Haverfield Aviation

Operating Certificate(s) Held:

Rotorcraft External Load (133)


Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:

Visual Conditions

Condition of Light:


Observation Facility, Elevation:

THV, 486 ft msl

Observation Time:

1253 EDT

Distance from Accident Site:

26 Nautical Miles

Temperature/Dew Point:

16°C / 8°C

Lowest Cloud Condition:


Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction:

6 knots / , 120°

Lowest Ceiling:

Broken / 3600 ft agl


10 Miles

Altimeter Setting:

30.04 inches Hg

Type of Flight Plan Filed:


Departure Point:

Pylesville, MD


Pylesville, MD


Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries:

1 None

Aircraft Damage:


Passenger Injuries:


Aircraft Fire:


Ground Injuries:


Aircraft Explosion:


Total Injuries:

1 None

Latitude, Longitude:

39.697222, -76.392778 (est)


Administrative Information

Investigator In Charge (IIC):

Adam M Gerhardt

Additional Participating Persons:

Steven O'Rourke; FAA/ FSDO; Baltimore, MD

Jon A Michael; Rolls-Royce Corp; Indianapolis, IN

John Hobby; MD Helicopters; Mesa, AZ

Todd Tuttle; Haverfield Aviation; Gettysburg, PA


The NTSB did not travel to the scene of this accident.


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