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Manufacturing defect led to fatal B.C. helicopter crash: TSB

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Federal investigators say a manufacturing defect caused a helicopter to crash on Vancouver Island last year, claiming the life of the pilot.

Brent Fedirchuk was killed when the single-engine Hughes helicopter he was piloting alone crashed in a wooded area near Port McNeill, B.C., shortly after 9 a.m. on April 6, 2022.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has determined that undetected gaps formed inside an engine compressor wheel during manufacturing, eventually leading to catastrophic engine failure.

"Shrinkage voids developed near the inner circumference of the engine's sixth stage compressor wheel during the manufacturing process and went undetected using the existing inspection methods," the safety board announced at the conclusion of its investigation Thursday.

"The affected compressor wheel eventually failed when two separate fractures, one due to fatigue caused by shrinkage voids and the other due to overstress, occurred. This resulted in a catastrophic engine failure, and the subsequent impact with the ground."

Fedirchuk was conducting logging operations for Kestrel Helicopters in the Naka Creek area, east of Port McNeill, at the time of the crash.

Safety board investigators say the engine failed shortly after the helicopter released a bundle of cedar blocks from a 55-metre longline.

"Therefore, the helicopter likely had insufficient height and forward speed to conduct a successful autorotation," the TSB report says.

Brent Fedirchuk was the pilot who died when the Hughes 369D he was flying went down shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Facebook/Funtastic)

Fedirchuk broadcasted a radio distress call at 9:09 a.m. and the helicopter hit the ground seconds later, according to the report.

"The helicopter impacted the terrain with significant vertical speed, causing substantial damage to the helicopter," the report found.

The ground crew that was working with the helicopter arrived at the accident scene approximately 10 minutes after the crash and found the pilot fatally injured.

The TSB says engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce issued a service letter to its customers on May 18 recommending the engine compressors be converted to a new wheel design during their next overhaul period.

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