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HELI HERO; Copter crash pilot avoided housing estate.

Byline: ANDREW BUSHE

A HERO pilot managed to steer his helicopter away from a housing estate after he suffered serious engine failure, it was revealed yesterday.

The helicopter's tail rotor snapped and the pilot had less than a minute after equipment failure before the aircraft crashed at Lagore, Co Meath.

An air accident report found the pilot did everything in his power to avoid the houses in Dunshauglin, Co Meath.

Investigator Frank Russell said: "Approximately 54 seconds elapsed from the time the pilot heard the loud bang to ground impact.

"The investigation recognises the loss of tail rotor drive is an extreme failure and would severely challenge any individual pilot confronted with such an event."

The pilot, flying the twin-engined Agusta Westland A109 from Co Dublin to Weston, Co Kildare, suffered serious back injuries.

Mr Russell added the man struggled to control the helicopter because it was "spinning at quite a rate".

The report stated: "Normal orientation was not possible, outside references were a blur."

A witness said the crashlanding all happened in a matter of seconds. He added: "As well as the helicopter spinning nose up nose down, I recall there was no sound except from the rotor propellers, it was silent...eerie."

The inquiry also stated it was unable to determine "how, when and by whom" a cleaning cloth was introduced into the drive-shaft area.

Mr Russell said: "But as the maintenance organisation was solely responsible for the maintenance of the helicopter up to and including March 20, 2008, the investigation is of the opinion the origin of the cleaning cloth was probably from the stocks of the maintenance organisation.

"The presence of the cloth on the tail rotor drive-shaft area was most probably the result of systemic and human error."

Mr Russell added the IAA should issue a notice about the "control of tools and materials used during maintenance".

CAPTION(S):

DOWNED Copter came down in Lagore, Co Meath
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Sep 24, 2009
Words:322
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