By CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 2 ANDDREA K. POSTMA, C Company, 1/168th General Support Aviation Battalion (Air Ambulance) Sacramento, Calif. October 31, 2011
We made our rounds in the traffic pattern, with the pilots demonstrating their capabilities on the controls and the abilities of the aircraft. The crew chiefs in the back were conducting their duties clearing the aircraft, fuel checks, backing up the pilots on the checklist, etc. The SP decided to demonstrate the single-engine hover capability. He reached up and announced he was retarding the No. 2 power control lever (PCL) to idle. The No. 2 PCL was confirmed, he retarded the PCL to idle and the IP made a nice, slow visual meteorological condition (VMC) approach.
As we were making the approach, tower called and asked us to sidestep to the parallel taxiway because of other traffic inbound for landing. We came to about a 20-foot hover over the taxiway while the SP discussed the maneuver with the IP. Tower called again to ask our intentions and informed us of more traffic on approach. The SP, after much banter with the tower, refocused his attention to the IP on the controls. However, he must have forgotten what stage he was in the training. He reached up, grabbed the No. 1 PCL and proceeded to retard it to idle. The IP responded by lowering the collective and trying to bring the aircraft down and forward onto the taxiway.
On the way down, I reached up and grabbed onto my little yellow handholds in the crew window. Before anyone could say anything, we were on the ground. The aircraft came down and forward for a short distance, then made a rapid turn to the left. This rapid turn was due to the tail wheel lock pin shearing, allowing the tail wheel to turn. As the aircraft spun around and leaned to the right, I saw the main rotor blades near the ground. I thought they were going to hit and prepared for the worse when, suddenly, the aircraft leveled off and came to a stop. Our hearts were pounding as we looked around at each other. Then, finally, somebody came over the intercommunications system and asked if everyone was OK. Not knowing what damage had occurred, we shut down the aircraft in place. Fortunately, nobody was injured and, after shutting down, we immediately contacted maintenance to tow the aircraft back to the hangar. An inspection revealed no real damage, other than the sheared tail wheel lock pin.
Crewmembers are always briefed on crew coordination, specifically "announce actions," before every mission. The distracted SP made the mistake of not communicating with his crew. He should have announced his actions and then refocused on his training.
As stated in Chapter 6 of the aircrew training manual, crew coordination errors have caused a significant number of accidents before and during flight. Clearly, I had failed to offer assistance to the SP because he had more experience in the cockpit. I had fallen into the trap of assuming the more experienced pilot had everything under control. However, as a crew, we all failed to keep focused on the maneuver. I accept my role and clearly understand what I should have done to prevent it from happening.