The pilot reported that, while making a video of a boat near Santa Maria Island in Florida, he flew the Robinson R44 helicopter with the doors removed about 20 feet above the water and about ¾ mile offshore. He saw seabirds ahead crossing from his right to left and thought they would be no factor.
Shortly after seeing the birds, he initiated a right turn to follow the boat, and while he was looking over his right shoulder, he felt an object strike him in the back of the head.
While dazed from the head strike, he flared to reduce speed, and the helicopter settled into the water. He then applied left lateral cyclic to stop the main rotor blade’s rotation, and the helicopter rolled left and inverted in the water.
The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and main rotor blades.
The pilot, who sustained serious injuries, reported that he believed he had been hit in the head by a seabird.
Probable Cause: The pilot’s loss of control while maneuvering at a low altitude after being struck in the head by a bird.
This January 2019 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.
Nice to have Monday Morning quarterbacks. Clarity becomes blinding!
See and avoid. They have the right-of-way.
Birds normally dive to escape which is why they dive into windshields, which I have had happen. Not seeing a bird getting past the rotor blades and hitting the pilot, or flying straight into the cabin.
And dazed but able to flair, reduce speed and then apply cyclic to stop the blades, why not land on the beach 3/4 miles away?
Somethings fishy…besides the fish….lol
José Serra says
If he saw the birds ahead crossing from his right to the left, wow didn’t he figure the possibility of another bird could follow the others or flying in the opposite direction and took attention so he can escape a hit from those beings?