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NTSB Issues Factual Report In Tahlequah Helicopter Accident

Pilot Was Under Investigation By The FAA

The NTSB has issued its factual report in the crash of a Robinson R22 helicopter in which the pilot and his passenger were killed. The report indicates that the pilot was under investigation by the FAA for providing false and misleading information on a medical certificate.

The excerpted text of the report reads as follows:

"On October 14, 2009, approximately 0450 CDT, a Robinson Helicopter R22 Beta, N3234G, operated by a non-instrument rated private pilot, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near Tahlequah, Oklahoma. A post impact fire ensued. Night instrument meteorological conditions
prevailed at the time of the accident. The personal flight was being conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 without a flight plan. The private pilot and his passenger were fatally injured. The flight departed the pilot's private residence approximately 0445 and was en route to Tahlequah Municipal Airport (KTQH), Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

"According to family and friends, the pilot had been up all night watching movies. The pilot intended to fly to KTQH to meet a friend, hanger his helicopter, and go hunting. The helicopter never arrived and the friend departed the airport without reporting the overdue helicopter. Family members of the passenger filed a missing persons report on the afternoon of October 15, 2009, and the wreckage was located from the air the morning of October 16, 2009.

"The pilot, age 26, held a private pilot certificate with a rotorcraft helicopter rating issued on July 31, 2009. He was issued a Third Class Airman Medical and Student Pilot certificate on April 28, 2008. The certificate contained no limitations. The pilot’s flight log was not located in the wreckage and the pilot’s family was not aware of the location of the flight log. At the time of application for the airman medical certificate on April 28, 2008, the pilot reported a total flight time of 21 hours. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot received his private pilot certificate on July 31, 2009. At the time of application for this certificate, the pilot reported a total flight time of 85 hours, all of which were logged in the Robinson R22. The application reflected 3.5 hours of night instruction and zero hours of instrument training.

"A review of FAA records revealed that a letter of investigation was sent to the pilot on September 2, 2009. The letter alleged that the pilot had provided “false or fraudulent information” on his medical certificate application dated April 28, 2008, and failed to report a motor vehicle action
within 60 days as required by Federal Aviation Regulations. The letter discussed three separate alcohol-related motor vehicle actions that were recorded on the pilot’s driving record. The dates of these offenses were July 14, 2003, January 26, 2004, and March 9, 2009. According to the FAA, the pilot had not responded to the letter or provided further evidence or a statement regarding the letter.

"The accident helicopter, a Robinson Helicopter R22 Beta (serial number 4114), was manufactured in 2007. It was registered with the FAA on a standard airworthiness certificate for normal operations. A Lycoming O-360-J2A engine, rated at 145 horsepower, powered the helicopter. The helicopter was registered to Trevor Noble, Terry Noble, and Robert Koudelka. The original maintenance records were not in the wreckage. Trevor Noble and Robert Koudelka had both been fatally injured in separate aviation accidents on November 5, 2007, and November 2, 2008, respectively. Terry Noble could not be located. The pilot’s family had no knowledge as to the location of the maintenance records. A mechanic with Sevier County  hoppers came forward and provided copies of the maintenance entries from maintenance performed on the accident helicopter. According to these copies, the most recent maintenance conducted on the helicopter was a 100-hour inspection, which was conducted in accordance with the R22  maintenance manual. This 100-hour inspection was completed on July 27, 2009, at an aircraft total time of 1,542.7 hours.

"The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner performed the autopsy on October 17, 2009, as authorized by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner – Eastern Division, Tulsa, Oklahoma. The autopsy concluded that the cause of death was "internal injuries due to blunt force trauma." During the autopsy, specimens were collected for toxicological testing performed by the FAA’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (CAMI Reference #200900245001).

"Toxicology staff at CAMI noted that paperwork accompanying toxicology samples on the pilot indicated the blood source to be “RT. PLEURAL SPACE.” Testing of the blood detected 20.92 ug/ml Acetaminophen, 0.125 ug/ml Amphetamine, 0.025 ug/ml Doxylamine, 1.338 ug/ml Methamphetamine, 2.077 ug/ml Norpropoxyphene, 0.49 ug/ml Propoxyphene, Dextromethorphan, and Dextrorphan. Testing of the liver tissue detected 0.281 ug/ml Amphetamine, 2.458 ug/ml Methamphetamine, 15.501 ug/ml Norpropoxyphene, 3.039 ug/ml Propoxyphene, Dextromethorphan, Doxylamine, and Dextrorphan.

A review of the pilot's dental records indicated that the pilot was prescribed a combination of propoxyphene and acetaminophen for pain following a tooth extraction and a tooth repair performed the day prior to the accident. The pilot’s April 28, 2008, application for 3rd Class Airman Medical and Student Pilot Certificate indicated “No” in response to “Do You Currently Use Any Medication” and to all items under "Medical History," including specifically “Substance dependence or failed a drug test ever, or substance abuse or use of illegal substance in the last 2 years,” “history of any conviction(s) involving driving … while under the influence of alcohol or a drug; or … actions involving an offense(s) which resulted in the denial, suspension, cancellation, or revocation of driving privileges …,” and “History of nontraffic convictions (misdemeanors or felonies).”

FMI: www.ntsb.gov


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