CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report on a July 30 crash of a gyroplane in the Melrose area of Clay County that killed two people.
The NTSB found the homemade experimental helicopter plunged to the ground from 1,000 feet in the sky and burned, after one of its rotor blades separated from the machine in mid-air.
A witness said the plane was circling and then saw objects “falling from the sky.”
Investigators said light items such as seat cushions, a flotation cushion and a stick grip were thrown from the plane when it crashed into a goat pasture and were found in close proximity to the wreckage. The missing rotor blade was found days later in a wooded area more than 300 feet away.
“This, in my experience, is the type of failure that would not present itself with an obvious crack, something more hidden in the structure of the rotor blade, and it occurred at a point that is the most highly stressed,” said News4JAX aviation expert Ed Booth.
The man and woman killed lived together in an apartment at Melrose Landing Airport. The couple were known to fly two other airplanes they owned. The man was a flight instructor, and he was teaching the woman how to fly the gyroplane, but she’d only had nine hours of instructions in it before the fatal crash.
Booth said that even though she only had nine hours of instruction, they didn’t do anything wrong.
“But from reading this factual report from the NTSB, it does clearly indicate that this was a legal operation that the flight instructor was properly certificated to give instruction in a gyroplane. And it’s an unfortunate set of circumstances that appears to have been started by some sort of failure of the rotor blade,” Booth said.
Booth said that the NTSB still has more to investigate and that it could take two years.