Amateur video taken just after a helicopter crashed in the East River. Courtesy Steven Castro.
A helicopter that crashed into the East River last week with five people onboard had been in the shop just two days before the fatal flight, accident investigators said in a report released Wednesday.
Mechanics had just wrapped up their annual inspection of the Bell 206 helicopter on Oct. 2, the National Transportation Safety Board said in the preliminary report.
During an annual inspection mechanics take much of an aircraft apart, check for corrosion and replace worn parts. The work can take several weeks.
In the past, the Federal Aviation Administration has warned pilots to be alert for mechanical problems immediately after maintenance. NTSB records show at least 10 small aircraft have crashed on the first flight after their annual inspections since 1999.
Pilot Paul Dudley told the NTSB he had just taken off from the East 34th Street Heliport and was 30 to 50 feet above the river when the nose of the helicopter swung unexpectedly to the left.
When he tried to turn right to return to the heliport, the aircraft went out of control, Dudley told investigators.
One passenger died in the crash. Two other passengers were seriously injured, the report says, but it does not detail their injuries. Dudley and a fourth passenger were unharmed.
Three-fourths of one main rotor blade broke off when the helicopter hit the water, the report said.
Investigators had previously said they were unsure if the blade broke before or after the impact. They have not found the missing piece, according to the report.
The NTSB report is preliminary and does not give the cause of the accident. That determination could take months.
The helicopter was built in 1976 and had flown 11,580 hours, the report said. It had a 400-horsepower Rolls-Royce engine.
The passengers were all friends of Dudley, an experienced pilot who also manages the Linden, N.J. airport. He has 2,287 hours of flying experience, including 1,500 hours in helicopters and 420 hours in Bell 206es, according to the NTSB report.