The pilot reported that, before the helicopter tour flight in Lihue, Hawaii, he briefed the passengers, but they still attempted to take cell phones onboard without cases. He then gave the passengers cases and attached them to their wrists.
During the flight, while the helicopter was flying about 100 knots, the right-side passenger held her cell phone and case outside of the cabin into the airflow, which resulted in the cell phone and case without the strap exiting the helicopter and hitting the tail rotor.
The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the tail rotor.
The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical failures or malfunctions with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation.
Probable cause: The passenger’s improper decision to hold her cell phone outside the helicopter, which resulted in it departing the helicopter and striking the tail rotor.
NTSB Identification: GAA19CA066
This November 2018 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.