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Tail Rotor Found 300 Feet Away from Crash Site: FAA issued tail rotor advisory in some Bell 429 helicopters on same day as fatal Mercy Flight crash
By MATT SURTEL, firstname.lastname@example.org
A federal advisory warning of tail rotor issues with Bell 429 helicopters was issued the same day as Tuesday’s fatal Mercy Flight Crash off Norton Road.
Tail Rotor of the fatal crash discovered in a debris field about 2,000 feet long.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued an updated airworthiness directive requiring inspection of tail rotor pitch link assemblies and replacing some of the related bearings.
Its language described the condition as unsafe, saying it involved “certain Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limited ... Model 429 helicopters.”
If not addressed the condition could result in a loss of control, the directive reads.
Mercy Flight Pilot James E. Sauer and instructor pilot Stewart M. Dietrick of Bell Helicopter had been flying in a Bell 429 belonging to Mercy Flight about 1 p.m. Tuesday when witnesses reported hearing a loud boom before discovering the crash.
The helicopter’s tail rotor was found about 300 feet from the main wreckage in a debris field about 2,000 feet long. National Transportation Safety Board officials said it separated at some point during the incident but they hadn’t determined when.
The wreckage is being sent to a facility in Delaware for analysis as investigators try to determine what caused the crash.
A tail rotor counteracts torque from the helicopter’s main rotor. A helicopter will quickly develop control difficulties if its tail rotor loses effectiveness.
The airworthiness directive was set to become effective May 31.
It cited examining the affected helicopters’ pitch link assemblies carefully for cracks or deterioration of bearing liners, or axial or radial play exceeding allowable limits, along sealant thickness.
An initial report on the Elba crash is expected in about a week, with a final report to be issued about a year from now.