NTSB report confirm fuel supply shut off in Liberty helicopter crash

NTSB's preliminary investigation confirms, inadvertent fuel supply shut off led to the fatal March 11 Liberty helicopter crash in New York.

The scheduled 30-minute, doors-off aerial photography flight was operated by Liberty Helicopters, Inc., on behalf of FlyNYON which originated from Helo Kearny Heliport (65NJ), Kearny, New Jersey about 1900.

The accident happened at about 1908 eastern daylight time involving a Airbus Helicopters AS350B2 with registration N350LH, which was substantially damaged following water impact.

Initially the pilot believed he had experienced an engine failure. Once he was in an established auto rotative glide, he attempted to restart the engine but was unsuccessful.

He waited 1 or 2 seconds and tried the starter again, but there were no positive indications of a successful engine restart on the instrumentation.

He activated the floats at an altitude of about 800 ft agl.

At this point he was "committed to impact," and, when he reached down for the emergency fuel shutoff lever, he realized that it was in the off position. He also noted that a portion of the front seat passenger's tether was underneath the lever.

As the helicopter continued to descend through 600 ft agl, he positioned the fuel shutoff lever to the "on" position and attempted to restart the engine. He observed positive indications on the engine instruments immediately.

As the helicopter descended through 300 ft, he realized that the engine "wasn't spooling up fast enough," and, given the helicopter's proximity to the surface, he had to continue the auto rotation.

He again reached for the fuel shutoff lever and positioned it back to "off." Passing through between 100 and 50 ft, he began the cyclic flare in an extended glide configuration, but he "did not get a lot of rpm back."

He performed a flare reduction at 10 to 15 ft. He pulled the collective pitch control up "as far as it would go."

The helicopter then impacted the water at 5° to 10° nose-up attitude.

A tugboat was the first vessel to arrive at the accident site, and the crew began to render assistance. First responders later arrived, and subsequently extricated the five passengers from the helicopter.

The helicopter remained submerged in an inverted position in the East River for about 18 hours before it was recovered at slack tide the following day.

The pilot egressed from the helicopter and sustained minor injuries, while the five passengers did not egress and were fatally injured.

Read the complete report here.