CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The National Transportation Safety Board investigators say a SLED helicopter crashed last June when its pilot was unable to manipulate a pedal that had been secured in place.
The crash happened at 4 p.m. on June 26 at Summerville Airport and was the first crash of a SLED helicopter in the agency’s history, agents said.
The pilot, its sole occupant at the time of the crash, suffered minor injuries in the incident.
The NTSB report says the crash happened as the pilot was attempting to move the helicopter for refueling. As the pilot began to bring the helicopter to a hover, the craft began to spin clockwise, the report states.
"He then applied left pedal, but the helicopter continued to spin and climbed about 7 feet about ground level," the report states.
After two revolutions, the pilot realized the co-pilot's left-hand anti-torque pedal was "chocked," and as he began autorotation, the chopper's tail rotor and main rotor blades struck the ground, the report states.
Chocking is a practice to restrict the pedal's movement. Chocking the left-hand anti-torque pedal would have prevented both the left and right-hand anti-torque pedals from moving fully, the report states.
The copilot told investigators he had chocked the pedals on his side of the helicopter by removing the left-hand anti-torque pedal, rotating it 180 degrees and reinstalling it. He said that was a common practice at the time.
But the report states the copilot "did not tell the pilot he had chocked the pedals" and said the pilot did not know the pedals were restricted.
"A senior leadership official for the operator reported that 'chocking the pedals' is a common, unwritten practice utilized when both pilots exit the helicopter while the engine is running," the report states. "He added that there was a consensus between both full time and part-time pilots approving the 'chocking of pedals,' although the action is not approved by the manufacturer."
The pilot was treated and released from the hospital the next day.