WHITEFIELD, Maine — The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the May 30 crash of a helicopter in the woods near Route 218 in Whitefield.
The helicopter’s pilot, identified in news reports as Mike Connolly, was able to walk out under his own power, but had visible cuts on his face.
The pilot was coherent and politely declined to speak to the Lincoln County News reporter on the scene.
The helicopter, identified by its tail number as an OH-58A model produced by Garlick Helicopters Inc. and registered to Whitefield-based Maine Helicopters Inc., crashed in a wooded area near 100 East River Road (Route 218).
Maine Helicopters personnel at the scene declined to comment on the crash, and a message left with the company was not returned by press time.
Brian Rayner, an investigator with the NTSB, said a cursory examination of the helicopter was performed by the Federal Aviation Administration. Rayner said he will schedule a detailed examination involving airframe and power plant experts.
Rayner is waiting on statements from the pilot and the operator and expects a preliminary report on the crash to be released by the end of the week.
Kathleen Woodbury, who lives at the property where the helicopter crashed, went looking for the helicopter after she heard it go down.
“I was out here doing some yard work, heard the engine stop” and it was followed by a “crash-crunch, like he was crashing through trees,” Woodbury said.
Woodbury found the pilot near her tree stand, waving her down.
“I just followed my trail and prayed, prayed to God he was okay and I’d find him,” she said.
The Maine Forest Service, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and Whitefield Fire Department responded to the scene.
The accident in Whitefield is at least the fourth helicopter crash involving a Maine Helicopters aircraft since 1986, according to NTSB documentation.
Most recently, another OH-58A was “substantially damaged during a forced landing” after a partial loss of engine power near Columbia, Maine, in May 2004.
The aircraft had been flying uneventfully for approximately two hours when the pilot landed the craft to load chemicals to be sprayed on a blueberry field and refuel, according to NTSB documentation. The pilot took off and soon thereafter lost partial power for reasons that were never identified, and hit trees while attempting a “run-on landing” to a field.
In August 1996, a Bell 206-BII owned by Maine Helicopters crashed in Starks during a power line observation flight.
The NTSB ruled the accident was due to the pilot’s improper decision to operate at slow airspeed and close to the “critical relative wind azimuth” in an area of gusty, variable winds, which resulted in an inadvertent loss of tail rotor effectiveness. Gusty crosswind and lack of suitable terrain for landing were also listed as related factors.
A July 1986 crash involved a Bell 47G-5 where, during a spray run in Walthamer, Maine, the pilot was blinded by the sun, struck power lines, and lost control, according to the NTSB.