The Transportation Safety Board says an undetected defect deep within the engine of a helicopter caused a fatal crash on northern Vancouver Island last year.
The board’s investigation report examined the April 6, 2022 crash of a Hughes 369D that went down near the Port McNeill airport, killing the lone pilot.
The report says shrinkage voids developed during manufacturing of the helicopter engine’s sixth-stage compressor wheel, but that problem can’t be detected with existing inspection methods.
The compressor wheel eventually fractured in two places, which the board says caused “catastrophic” engine failure.
This wasn’t a first.
“The engine manufacturer is aware of two other times that a similar engine failure has occurred,” said Jessica Hamstra, the lead investigator on this crash with the Transportation Safety Board.
The pilot, 50-year-old Brent Fedirchuk of Port Alberni, had left the Parksville base of Kestrel Helicopters and flown up north of Sayward on the morning of April 6, 2022.
He had started moving salvaged wood from the forest floor, to be used for making shakes or shingles, to a nearby road.
The TSB has ruled out weather as a factor and says there’s no indication fatigue contributed to the crash.
Because the pilot had just dropped a load of cedar blocks from a longline, the report says the helicopter was too close to the ground to safely emergency land.
“The helicopter was approximately two to three hundred feet above the ground with little to no forward speed. This made the successful autorotation unlikely,” said Hamstra.
The TSB says the engine manufacturer has reissued a commercial service letter, first issued in 2007, which now includes a recommendation that its customers convert the compressor to the new wheel design during the next overhaul.
With files from The Canadian Press