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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 44053
Last updated: 3 December 2021
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Type:Silhouette image of generic S64 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Sikorsky CH-54A (S-64A)
Owner/operator:Heavy Lift Helicopters, opf. USFS
Registration: N6156U
MSN: 66-18410
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Location:Klamath River, near Happy Camp, CA -   United States of America
Phase: Landing
Nature:Fire fighting
Departure airport:Happy Camp, CA (36S)
Destination airport:
Investigating agency: NTSB
The helicopter experienced an in-flight separation of a tail rotor blade and subsequent separation of the tail rotor gearbox and remaining tail rotor blades while conducting fire suppression operations for the United States Forest Service (USFS). A witness located near the accident site reported that he observed the helicopter over the dip site when the witness heard a "loud bang." He observed the helicopter flying over a stone riverbed toward a bridge when he noticed a large piece fall off the helicopter, later identified as the tail rotor gearbox with three of the four tail rotor blades attached to the hub. The helicopter pitched nose low at an approximate 45-degree nose down attitude while rotating around its vertical axis before impacting the side of the river/shoreline. The tail rotor blade associated with the red spindle separated from the tail rotor. The red tail rotor spindle failed due to a fatigue fracture in the spindle. Among three machined grooves, located on the spindle under a spacer, the fatigue initiated in the groove located closest to the blade (the outboard groove). Fatigue initiated at a single origin associated with a shot-peen pit. Circumferential scratches were observed in the groove areas and on the adjacent journal surface; however, the fatigue crack origin was not associated with these scratches. The journal diameter was also undersize by 0.007 inch, and fretting was observed on the journal surface. The origin was not associated with any particular scratch or other apparent material defect. The groove peak between the middle and inboard grooves was sheared at the trailing side of the red spindle and displaced toward inboard, damage consistent with a tail rotor strike. The total time of the spindle could not be determined as it was not a life-limited component that required serial number and time tracking. The tail rotor assembly underwent an overhaul about 233.6 hours prior to the accident. During the overhaul, the spindles are to be inspected via fluorescent penetrant; however, the overhaul manual did not require the removal of the spacer that covered the groove area where the fatigue cracking initiated unless the spacer was damaged or worn beyond its approved limits. According to the operator, the spacer was not routinely removed at overhaul unless it was damaged or out of dimensional tolerance.

Probable Cause: The fatigue failure of tail rotor blade spindle, which resulted in the separation of the blade and tail rotor gearbox.




Revision history:

28-Oct-2008 00:45 ASN archive Added
24-Feb-2009 12:03 Anon. Updated
25-Dec-2009 23:50 TB Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Location, Nature, Source, Damage, Narrative]
19-Mar-2011 10:06 TB Updated [Time, Operator, Source, Narrative]
21-Dec-2016 19:24 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
05-Dec-2017 09:20 ASN Update Bot Updated [Cn, Operator, Other fatalities, Nature, Source, Narrative]
20-Oct-2018 20:08 64064 Updated [Operator, Nature]
20-Oct-2018 20:08 harro Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Nature, Narrative]

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