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Old 20th Jul 2007, 11:11   #1 (permalink)
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Santa Barbara Skycrane crash

With fairly severe fires around Santa Barbara, there was a dramatic Skycrane crash over a week ago. Various reports are in the Santa Barbara Independent, with this photo:

and the Santa Barbara News-Press had some exclusive photos taken by Ted Williams: I only have a scan of the front page,

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Old 20th Jul 2007, 13:00   #2 (permalink)
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Without knowing how fast the film was it's hard to say but it doesn't look like the tail rotor is turning.
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Old 20th Jul 2007, 13:10   #3 (permalink)
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Without knowing how fast the film was it's hard to say but it doesn't look like the tail rotor is turning.
looks like it is in the first photo, but not in the second one.
Looks like he could have dropped his lunch box on the cyclic, but man was he still hangin' in there on the collective, by the look of the coning angle??

Wind on the day?? looks like by the grass that he was right into the prevailing wind, rising ground, laden or mt??

how many left now? not all that many to start with and there's been a few bite the dirt in recent years
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Old 22nd Jul 2007, 07:12   #4 (permalink)
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The photo sequence of the crash can be found at

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Old 22nd Jul 2007, 07:53   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks! Looking at this photo, I wonder if the nosewheel castor angle would have been of any significance: is this a normal taxi angle, or more effect than cause?

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Old 22nd Jul 2007, 08:26   #6 (permalink)
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Possible Dynamic Rollover?
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Old 22nd Jul 2007, 13:00   #7 (permalink)
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It's wierd. Watching that series of pictures is like watching the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination...

What strikes me as odd is that shot as the ship has started to go over but the blades haven't hit yet. There are two groundcrewmen standing off to the left of the aircraft. One of them apparently has a helmet on (guy from the helicopter, maybe?). The other (the truck driver?) has already started to beat feet outta there. Helmet-guy seems blithely unaware that his(?) helicopter is rolling over without him.

My guess is that the ship was not quite ready for take-off and got into an unintended liftoff/rollover of some sort, perhaps like that Puma in New Orleans after Katrina. News reports say that a "pilot and copilot" were rescued from the ship, which causes me to wonder: How many people normally crew a Skycrane in flight? Secondly, do Skycranes have a low-rpm "ground idle" setting? In other words, were they at 100% NR?

Just asking.
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Old 22nd Jul 2007, 13:40   #8 (permalink)
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Flipn hek, not a pleasent site.. Theres normally a 3 man crew on the cranes, pilot/co-pilot and the tank operator in the back cab, wel watever is attached to the crane the operator in the back handles it while the pilots concentrate on the flying!
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Old 22nd Jul 2007, 13:54   #9 (permalink)
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Another set of blades gone

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Old 22nd Jul 2007, 17:13   #10 (permalink)
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The Crane is flown with a two man crew, the rear seat is seldom, if ever used, since the advent of vertical reference operations. It was most typically used for construction over any other operation and would certainly never see use in firefighting.

Initial reports suggest the focus of the investigation is on maintenance activities on the main rotor servo. Heavylift is now reportedly removed from the Forest Service contract and their remaining 54A and 53D grounded.

This also shows one of the great hazards in this design, the exposure and relative structural weakness of the cockpit from the rest of the airframe.

Amazing sequence of pictures! Incredibly lucky for everyone in the aiercraft and on the ground.
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Old 22nd Jul 2007, 17:28   #11 (permalink)
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early in the sequence of photos, it shows crewman climbing the main gear supports, and appear to be examining something on the top. is the helo running at this time?
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Old 22nd Jul 2007, 17:32   #12 (permalink)
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Yup engines are running, seems to be plenty of space between the ground crews head and the main rotor blades anyway.
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Old 22nd Jul 2007, 17:34   #13 (permalink)
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Yes, the machine is running, this is a standard procedure on the Crane as everything is visible, and the deck is a mass of lines and fluid systems. There is a guy up on both sides.

They were extremely lucky not to have been up there when it rolled over!
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Old 23rd Jul 2007, 01:59   #14 (permalink)
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Push Pull Tube

Read at another forum that a control tube snapped causing the rollover.
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Old 23rd Jul 2007, 02:51   #15 (permalink)
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Look at the extreme "dihedral" on the blades in the following pic (The blades aren't flat). Looks like this excessive angle has been caused by a large control (cyclic) movement at low RPM which does indeed look like some kind of control snapped. If the helmet guy wasn't standing there, it would look like it was taking off, but possibly at low RPM. The nosewheel looks like it does because it's turned to starboard due to the pressure applied to it.

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Old 23rd Jul 2007, 05:12   #16 (permalink)
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FH1100 Pilot,
take this for what it's worth, since I haven't ever flown a 54 or 64, but have much experience flying other heavy type 1 Sikorsky helicopters on fires.
We always hot-refueled at 100% flight idle and NOT at ground idle, since many systems require AC power and the AC generators drop offline below a certain NR. You would have to start up the APU if you wanted to reduce the throttle quadrants to idle and still maintain power to the various systems and cockpit indications.
I've spent much time at a helibase next to a 54/64, but can't seem to remember if they reduce power to ground idle during refueling or keep it at flight idle. Maybe someone with the appropriate experience could enlighten us.
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Old 23rd Jul 2007, 06:26   #17 (permalink)
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Back when I crewed a crane we always hot refueled at flight idle not ground idle. I know some of the other companies didn't always follow the rule but we tried to void ground idle as the planetry gears in the main gerbox were not properly oiled at lower speeds. Not sure how much truth there is to it but thts what we got from the guys in the OH shop so we always tried to avoid it anyway.

Also in reference to the dihedral on the blades, I see it as being normal or at least close to it. The E model 64 ( A model 54) normally got a really good cone to the blades on take off. The F model (B model 54) seemed a bit less so but I didn't spend much time on those so I wouldn't swear to it.

Glad they made it out ok at any rate!

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Old 26th Jul 2007, 22:03   #18 (permalink)
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NTSB Identification: LAX07LA210
14 CFR Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load
Accident occurred Sunday, July 08, 2007 in Los Olivos, CA
Aircraft: Aviation International Rotors CH-54A, registration: N44094
Injuries: 2 Minor.
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.
On July 8, 2007, about 1608 Pacific daylight time, an Aviation International Rotors CH-54A, N44094, experienced a mechanical malfunction and rolled over during takeoff from a helibase about 4 miles north of Los Olivos, California. The helicopter was operated by Heavy Lift Helicopters, Inc., Apple Valley, California, under a "call when needed" contract for the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The purpose of the flight was to support CAL FIRE's wildland fire suppression activities of dispersing retardant on a fire in Santa Barbara County. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a company flight plan had been filed. The helicopter was substantially damaged. The airline transport certificated pilot and the commercial certificated copilot sustained minor injuries. The flight was performed under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 133, and it was originating at the time of the accident.

Witnesses reported that while the helicopter was on the ground at the southeast corner of the Figueroa Helibase on spot number 2, and at operating power, the helicopter began an uncommanded slow rollover to the right. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) coordinator examined the helicopter at the accident site.

The FAA coordinator reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that components, which secure one of the three main rotor blade pitch change servo units to the helicopter, were found about 6 feet away from the main wreckage. The components consisted of a nut, bolt, pin, and plate. This assembly secures one of the servo units to the helicopter transmission on one end and the helicopter swash plate on the other end. The FAA coordinator additionally reported that the integrity of this assembly is critical to flight safety, and separation of the servo unit will result in loss of main rotor blade pitch control.
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Old 27th Jul 2007, 18:25   #19 (permalink)
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Maintenance guy

SOP to climp up and look for leaks and such when we were running....even here at Sik. My question though, the article states that the pilot and copilot got out relatively unscathed...what of the maintenance crew man?? Can't see him in the cloud of dirt but you can see him up there in the picture before that.....
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Old 8th Nov 2007, 22:45   #20 (permalink)
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Skycrane for sale - Paintwork may need respraying

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