NTSB Identification: ERA16LA094
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, January 27, 2016 in Lindenhurst, NY
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER R22, registration: N404LE
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On January 27, 2016, about 1145 eastern standard time, a Robinson R22 Beta, N404LE, operated by Academy of Aviation, LLC, was substantially damaged during an autorotation, after it experienced a total loss of engine power while in cruise flight near Lindenhurst, New York. The flight instructor and student pilot were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the flight that originated from Republic Airport (FRG), Farmingdale, New York. The local instructional flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
According to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the flight instructor reported that he and the student pilot were returning to FRG after flying for about 1.6 hours. The helicopter was about 4 miles southeast of the airport, at an altitude of approximately 700 feet mean sea level, when the engine began to run rough for a few seconds and then quit suddenly. The flight instructor assumed control of the helicopter and performed an autorotation to a street in a residential neighborhood. After touchdown, the main rotor blades struck a sign, and the helicopter rolled over, onto its right side. The tail boom separated just prior to the vertical fin and the tail rotor gear box and tail rotor blades displayed damage consistent with ground contact. The flight instructor added that he been operating with the carburetor heat control in the on position throughout the flight, which included at the time of the power loss.
Postaccident examination of the helicopter by an FAA inspector did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions. Approximately 6 gallons of fuel was drained from the fuel tank, which was not compromised. The engine was retained for further examination to be conducted at a later date.
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Farmingdale FSDO-11
The Robinson R22 helicopter attempted to make an emergency landing at Buena Vista Boulevard and East Alhambra Avenue in Copiague just before noon Wednesday after reporting engine problems, as reported by CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
Neighbors found the chopper on its side. They were amazed that the 26-year-old pilot and flight instructor, Joseph Lombardo, and his 27-year-old student, Ming Chen, weren’t injured.
Lombardo’s confident words could be heard in a cell phone video of the inside of his downed helicopter moments after the crash landing.
Witness: How did you not hit those wires?
Lombardo: ‘Cause I saw them.
Witness: Geez dude, how long you been flying?
Lombardo: Three years.
Vincent Pellegrini told CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco that he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“I looked to my left and I saw the helicopter right next to me, thought I was just seeing things. I saw it go right behind the trees, under the power lines, and tip right over,” he said.
Witness Laura St. Angelo heard the helicopter motor sputtering and saw the aircraft coming down.
“It was petrifying,” she told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “I heard crash, boom.”
Air traffic controllers knew there was trouble-from the Mayday Transmission southwest of Republic Airport in Farmingdale.
“It’s a miracle it didn’t hit a house, a miracle that they both were able to get out alive, that men that were working on a house ducked when the helicopter came over them — they ran for it,” St. Angelo said.
The teacher was operating the helicopter at the time and many at the scene are calling him a hero.
“I did see his face with that fear and I would like to hug that man,” St. Angelo said. “I’m just so grateful that he’s alive, both of them.”
Lombardo managed to land the chopper in the intersection, avoiding any homes, electrical wires, or passing cars below.
The helicopter is owned by Academy of Aviation. The company says the experienced instructor was returning from a two-hour lesson when mechanical problems shut down the engine. The pilot is being hailed a hero for managing to find a place where no one would get hurt.
No injuries were reported on the ground.
The FAA and NTSB are investigating.
Story, video and photo gallery: http://newyork.cbslocal.com