Air Ambulance Helicopter Downed by Fencing FOD

Air Ambulance Helicopter Downed by Fencing (Metro Aviation Airbus BK117C2 / H145 N263MH)

On 4 July 2020 Metro Aviation air ambulance Airbus Helicopters BK117C2 / H145 N263MH was involved in an accident at Wayne County Airport (KBJJ), Wooster, Ohio.  The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) explain in their preliminary report that:

Surveillance video showed that after lifting off a portable dolly [at c 1357 Local Time], the helicopter…turned right and briefly hovered.

As the helicopter began to take off following the hover, it traversed a grassy area adjacent to the ramp about 10 ft above ground level (AGL), where a silt construction fence was obscured by tall grass.

As the helicopter overflew, the fence became unsecured and blew up and into the main and tail rotor system. The crew then performed a forced landing, which resulted in substantial damage to the fuselage, tailboom, and tail rotor blades.

Metro Aviation HEMS Airbus Helicopters BK117C2 / H145 N263MH at Wayne County Airport (KBJJ), Wooster, Ohio After Hard Landing, Tangle in Silt Fencing (Credit: NTSB)

Metro Aviation HEMS Airbus Helicopters BK117C2 / H145 N263MH at Wayne County Airport (KBJJ), Wooster, Ohio After Hard Landing, Tangled in Silt Fencing (Credit: NTSB)

The two pilots, flight nurse and flight paramedic were uninjured.

At the time of the accident, there were no notices to airmen (NOTAMs) for the construction fence and the presence of the fence was not contained within any publications or notices available to pilots.

UPDATE 23 February 2022: Extra information is released in the NTSB Public Docket:

According to the pilots, the construction in the area of the fencing had started about 2 months prior to the accident and that coincided with the installation of the fence.

One of the pilots stated that he had inspected the fence himself and remembered the bottom being buried in the ground about 4 to 6 inches and attached to wooden stakes with staples and nails. He said, regarding the silt fence, that he “never imagined it would come out at that altitude.”

The second pilot stated:

…he did not remember seeing the construction fencing prior to the accident, but he had flown over that area many times, he just did not take notice of it as a factor. He stated that upon liftoff and forward movement, he saw it balloon a split second before it blew up into the air and became tangled in the blades.  He stated that orange barriers are also located on the airport that would normally be filled with water, but they would leak and blow around, which is why they elected to fly over the grass.

UPDATE 18 March 2022: NTSB Probable Cause

The NTSB Probable Cause is a rather bland and simplistic statement of the circumstances of the accident:

The entanglement of construction fencing into the main rotor system, which necessitated a forced landing that resulted in substantial damage to the helicopter.

Operators Safety Actions

The operator stated they had done the following:

N263MH bk117c2 h145 metro hemssafety actions

Metro Aviation HEMS Airbus Helicopters BK117C2 / H145 N263MH at Wayne County Airport (KBJJ), Wooster, Ohio After Hard Landing, Tangled in Silt Fencing (Credit: NTSB)

Metro Aviation HEMS Airbus Helicopters BK117C2 / H145 N263MH at Wayne County Airport (KBJJ), Wooster, Ohio After Hard Landing, Tangled in Silt Fencing (Credit: NTSB)

Safety Resources

BP has shared a video on the threat of downwash (albeit with larger helicopters):

bp downdraft


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