The student pilot was conducting a solo flight in a Cirrus SR20 at an uncontrolled airport in Fort Collins, Colo. An airport video showed the student attempting to land on a runway about 30 seconds after the departure of a Sikorsky UH-60 helicopter.
The student pilot reported that he was aware of the helicopter and that he attempted to land long.
However, just before touchdown, the plane encountered the wake turbulence of the helicopter and then entered an uncommanded steep left bank.
The student attempted to counter the left bank and go around, but he was unable to maintain control.
The plane hit left of the runway and cartwheeled, resulting in one serious injury.
Current FAA pilot guidance, including the Airman’s Information Manual and an advisory circular on aircraft wake turbulence, does not recommend separation criteria for a small airplane following a helicopter. It is likely that the student pilot did not comprehend the significance of the wake turbulence that the helicopter would generate during departure.
The NTSB determined the probable cause as the student pilot’s failure to comprehend the significance of the wake turbulence that a preceding helicopter would generate during departure, which resulted in a loss of airplane control during landing. Contributing to the accident was the lack of FAA wake turbulence separation criteria for a small airplane following a helicopter.
NTSB Identification: CEN15LA069
This December 2014 accident report is provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. Published as an educational tool, it is intended to help pilots learn from the misfortunes of others.