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. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On October 23, 2014, about 1537 eastern daylight time, a Cirrus SR22 airplane, N122ES, and a Robinson R44 II helicopter, N7518Q, operated by Advanced Helicopter Concepts, collided in midair approximately 1 mile southwest of the Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), Frederick, Maryland. The helicopter departed controlled flight after the collision, descended vertically, and was destroyed by impact forces at ground contact. The airplane also departed controlled flight, the ballistic parachute system was deployed, and the airplane landed nose-down in a thicket of low trees and brush. The flight instructor, commercial pilot receiving instruction, and a passenger in the helicopter were fatally injured. The private pilot on board the airplane was not injured, and his passenger sustained a minor injury. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed for the airplane, which departed Cleveland, Tennessee on a personal flight about 1247. No flight plan was filed for the helicopter, which departed FDK on a pre-rental check-out flight about 1535. Both flights were conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.
Preliminary radar and voice communication information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the accident airplane first contacted the FDK local controller at 1534:10 approximately 10 miles west of the field at an altitude of 3,000 feet. The local controller acknowledged the pilot's transmission and instructed him to report three miles west of the airport for a left downwind to runway 30. The pilot acknowledged and read back the controller's instructions.
At the time the accident airplane contacted the local controller, traffic handled by the tower included two helicopters in the traffic pattern, one airplane conducting practice instrument approaches to runway 23, another airplane inbound from the southeast, and also a business jet with its IFR clearance on request.
At 1535:02, the controller cleared the accident helicopter for take-off from taxiway alpha, issued the current winds, and the call was acknowledged.
At 1536:49, the pilot of the accident airplane reported that he was three miles from the airport on a 45-degree entry for the downwind for landing on runway 30.
At 1537:22, the local controller instructed the airplane to report midfield left downwind for runway 30 and said, "I have three helicopters below ya in the uh traffic pattern". At 1537:30, the pilot of the airplane acknowledged the request to report midfield downwind and stated he had two of the helicopters in sight. Immediately after that transmission, at 1537:34, the local controller said, "Alright uh two echo sierra, I have ya in sight runway three zero, maintain your altitude to…until turning base, cleared to land."
At 1537:49, the pilot of another helicopter in the traffic pattern reported that an airplane and helicopter were both "down."
Witnesses on the ground observed the aircraft converge at the same altitude. One witness said the helicopter appeared to be in a stationary hover as the airplane approached it and the two subsequently collided. She said neither aircraft changed altitude as they approached each other.
A flight instructor for the operator in another company helicopter followed the accident helicopter in the traffic pattern for landing abeam runway 30. He said his helicopter had just completed the turn onto the crosswind leg of the traffic pattern, when the accident helicopter came into his view. At the same time, the airplane appeared in his field of view as it "flew through the rotor system" of the helicopter.
The pilot of the accident airplane was not immediately available for interview.
The airplane pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 31, 2014. He reported 1,080 total hours of flight experience, of which 1,000 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.
The flight instructor held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates with ratings for rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 31, 2014. Examination of his logbook revealed 832 total hours of flight experience, of which 116 hours were in the accident helicopter make and model.
The pilot receiving instruction held commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates with ratings for airplane single engine land, multiengine land, rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued April 29, 2013, and he reported 2,850 total hours of flight experience on that date. Excerpts of a pilot logbook revealed 1,538 total hours of helicopter experience.
The 1553 weather observation at FDK included scattered clouds at 4,800 feet, 10 miles visibility, and winds from 330 degrees at 16 knots gusting to 21 knots.
FDK was located at an elevation of 306 feet and the air traffic control tower was operating at the time of the accident. The published traffic pattern altitude for single-engine and light-twin airplanes was 1,300 feet mean sea level (msl), and 1,800 feet msl for heavy multiengine and jet airplanes. The traffic pattern was a standard left-hand pattern, and there was no published traffic pattern or altitude for helicopters.
The helicopter wreckage and its associated debris came to rest in a self-storage complex between two buildings, with parts and debris scattered in and around the complex. All major components were accounted for at the scene. The main wreckage came to rest largely upright, and included the cockpit, cabin area, fuselage, tailboom, engine, transmission, and main and tail rotors. All components were significantly damaged and deformed by impact forces. The "blue" main rotor blade was fractured near its root, and the outboard 11 feet of main rotor spar was located 50 feet from the main wreckage with no honeycomb or blade skin afterbody material attached.
Control continuity could not be established due to numerous fractures in the system, but all fractures exhibited features consistent with overload.
The airplane came to rest nose down, in a dense thicket of brush and low trees, wedged between tree trunks, and held in that position. All major components were accounted for at the scene, except for the right wing flap, aileron, and right landing gear wheel and tire assembly, which were located between the helicopter and airplane sites. Examination of the airplane revealed that the trailing edge of the right wing was impact-damaged. The flap and aileron hinges were significantly damaged and twisted, and the surrounding sheet metal displayed "saw-tooth" fractures, consistent with overload.