Seems like the crew handled this one well or were just lucky. Either way glad the're OK.
Bell Helicopter test aircraft forced to make emergency landing; crew safe
Two Bell Helicopter pilots flying a Bell 214ST test aircraft walked away safe after making an emergency landing Tuesday in an Ellis County cotton field.
Initial reports indicated that the aircraft, which is being used to test technology and components planned for use in new helicopter models, either lost power to the tail rotor or had the tail rotor break apart.
“It’s one of the most complicated things that can go wrong flying a helicopter,” said Jon Kettles, a Dallas aviation attorney and former Army helicopter pilot.
The tail rotor is the primary means of controlling the direction of a helicopter, which naturally wants to rotate under the main rotor.
The two-man flight crew apparently conducted a near textbook emergency landing, only to have the helicopter tip onto its side when one of the wheels dug into the soft dirt.
Photographs of the accident site show the four-bladed main rotor badly crumpled and no sign of the tail rotor. The fuselage itself does not appear to have been badly damaged.
Bell spokesman William Schroeder said the accident is under investigation by both Bell and the National Transportation Safety Board, but would not otherwise comment or provide details about the aircraft and what it was doing.
“Our focus at this time is on the safety and well being of our crew members,” Schroeder said. He did not identify the two-man crew.
“We cannot speculate as to the possible causes of the incident; however, it will be fully investigated. We are in contact with National Transportation Safety Board and fully cooperating with relevant authorities.”
The 214 ST, originally developed in the late 1970s as a military helicopter for Iran and sold commercially after the fall of the Shah, is the biggest helicopter ever produced by the Fort Worth-based company. Only 96 were ever built, according to aviation references.
In its original state the twin engine aircraft with a large version of the trademark Bell two-bladed rotor could haul 15-17 passengers with a maximum takeoff weight of about 17,500 pounds. By comparison a fully-loaded Bell 212, a 1970s twin-engine version of the original Huey models, could take off at about 11,000 pounds total weight.
The aircraft being flown Tuesday was acquired by Bell less than two years ago to use as a vehicle for testing of components for new aircraft, particularly the 525 Relentless commercial helicopter that the company announced in February that it planned to develop.
The aircraft was probably testing main rotor components, was heavily instrumented and transmitting live data back to Bell engineers on the ground at the time of the accident, according to a source close to the company.
With that data engineers should be able to determine what happened, the sequence of events, and perhaps even why, the source said, although the tail rotor assembly had not yet been found late in the day.
Bell spokesman Schroeder declined to comment on whether the accident would be a set back to the new helicopter development effort.
Bell have owned this ship for two years and it is being used to develop parts for the Relentless. Four blade head heavily intsrument for data colletion. T/R failure considered here as a possible cause.