Helicopter pilot avoided disaster
A helicopter pilot avoided a serious crash when his tail rotor failed and he managed to guide the aircraft away from a road.
An accident report by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) found the heroic 66-year-old, who has not been named, steered the chopper away from a public highway during a flying lesson last August.
The helicopter, which was approaching a runway, crashed in a field near Leicester Airport, in Stoughton.
Both the student and instructor – who was piloting the aircraft and had more than 22,000 hours of flying experience – escaped with minor injuries.
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The AAIB report found that the aircraft had failed following "severe vibration, a clutch warning and low rpm warnings" at a height of about 200ft – just moments before the collision.
After making a Mayday call, the instructor increased the speed of the helicopter and started an auto-rotation – a standard method of safely bringing down a helicopter in an emergency.
The AAIB report said: "The pilot entered auto-rotation, but instead of yawing left as expected, the aircraft yawed right, despite the subsequent application of full left yaw pedal.
"The helicopter was turning towards a public road, so the pilot increased the rate of turn using the cyclic control to ensure that the helicopter did not pass over it."
The helicopter span through 280 degrees and hit the ground before reaching the road.
It then rolled as it crashed, throwing both the pilot and passenger clear.
The report stated how the instructor fought to control the aircraft before the collision.
It said: "The pilot applied full up input on the collective control to try to cushion the touchdown, but the aircraft landed heavily in a field, with little forward speed but considerable right yaw, and rolled on to its left side.
"The student exited through the right door and the instructor exited through the broken front windscreen."
The aircraft was badly damaged in the incident.
The AAIB report states that the pilot's assessment of the wreckage found that the tail rotor drive had failed and that there was a large amount of wire wrapped around the rotor's drive shaft.
It was not clear exactly how the rotor had failed.