Bird strike?

Martin W.

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Something doesn't look right in the picture .... the stainless leading edge is obvious and where it peeled back you can see the reddish adhesive behind it .... the bit of brown in the center looks like the wood & fiberglass of the rotor .... but what is that big piece of silver-grey material just under your finger .... almost looks like embedded lead from a bullet.
 

WaspAir

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Could be. I don't really know the internal structure of these blades in any detail. Maybe I'll try a little scraping to see how soft/hard that bit is (betting that my pocket knife might scratch but probably not scrape off aluminum structure, but might dislodge some impacted lead).

I'll have to call the insurance company and send them some pics. I have a $10,000 in-motion deductible, but I expect a new blade (if the blade is not repairable) to be many times that.
 

Martin W.

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I am (was) presuming you may have the original wood blades with metal leading edge .... but for some reason the red adhesive bonding the stainless looks too modern to me .... however I am not up to date on blade bonding through the years and have only flown one Bell 47 with the all metal blades , the rest were wood.

Anyway , back to the single bullet theory .... the portion just under your finger it is shaped just like the rounded nose of a bullet and the bottom more of a blunt end , also like a bullet ...... and one of the reasons I think it is embedded is that an internal pressure from an embedded object forced the stainless to peel back the way it is

As you suggested , a knife will determine if it is soft lead.

The concerning part is it would appear the bullet was travelling upward .

I also think the blade is repairable
 

WaspAir

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Well, that's encouraging. Thanks.

Mine is a relatively late model (1967 47G-3B-1) so I don't think there's wood in there (at least not the spar). The blades are a much later series than the old style (I have a vague memory of a designation something like -23 but would have to look it up to be sure).
 

BEN S

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Wasp, I may not be much of an expert on heli blades, but I've seen a bullet or two ;)
If its a bullet, its a big one. All lead (shotgun slug? 45/70/BP?), I see no jacket material.
You can gently pry out some of the grey metal and on any portion you see rifling marks that would be a "Key ID Feature"
I am not there, but I have shot blades and seen blades shot. I don't think thats a bullet strike.
That may comfort you but also means your back to square one.
 

Brian Jackson

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From the photo, my brain is trying to create a narrative that fits all conditions. If you'll notice, the gouge buckles the leading edge material on the right but razor-shears the material on the left. Because the blade is traveling so much faster than a bird flies, you would expect the impact damage to be somewhat straight-on and symmetrical. This is not. So whatever impacted the blade, to my eye, was traveling at considerable sideways speed. This would be consistent with a bullet. I doubt it was a drone due to the lack of scratch marks to either side of the gouge. Just my $.02 US.
 

schmoe90

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The guys who circumnavigated Iceland hit a bird with a composite blade:
- it doesn't look like any real damage at all. Whatever hit you was a lot harder :(
 

okikuma

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No, it was very sparsely settled open Colorado range. No buildings, scattered trees, rocks, maybe a few cattle per square mile. No sign of people or ag operations below.

[Colorado was one of the first states to legalize growing marijuana so helicopter farm overflights are not so provocative these days. ]
Those photos I provided are from news reports of suspected illegal growers in the SoCal High Desert. There have been reports that near by aircraft have been fired upon.

Wayne
 

okikuma

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Years ago while on approach into Compton Airport (KCPM) I was hit in my aft fuselage of my Piper Pacer by three rounds of small arms fire. The rounds did not hit any of the structure, and passed harmlessly though the fabric covering. I figured the shooter was not leading his shots properly by aiming at me in the cockpit. I patched the holes up with duct tape (emergency patch material in the baggage compartment) and flew home.

During the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, we had a Cal Guard UH-1 take some rounds in the aft tail cone. Must of been the same shooter.

Wayne
 

Doug Riley

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Igor Bensen did some bird-strike tests on his gyro blades. The tests, with pictures, were written up in the PRA mag. They involved catapulting dead birds more or less radially into the rotor disk of a parked gyro. The rotor was turning at the RPM afforded by an 8-10 hp. prerotator. Rotor speed was therefore not full RPM, but perhaps 250-ish. The birds hit near the tips of the blades.

With the Bensen extruded spar/leading edge, there was no visible damage to the spar at all, but a slight crinkling of the top skin. And, yes, there was a messy smear of bird components over the blade.

IIR, the biggest bird that Igor demolished was an 8-lb. turkey.
 

WaspAir

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My mechanic is of the opinion that there is sufficient spar injury to require blade replacement.

On that basis, I have notified the NTSB. For those who don't have NTSB part 830 memorized, 49 CFR 830.5 (11) defines one of the immediately reportable incidents as:

Damage to helicopter tail or main rotor blades, including ground damage, that requires major repair or replacement of the blade(s)

I also gave the FBI an online report, in case this really was somebody shooting at me (they should be able to determine that definitively). Not entirely sure if it's in their jurisdiction, but violence directed at air commerce sounds to me like it might well be in their ballpark. I'll let the county sheriff know if the FBI doesn't show interest.

The search is underway for a suitable replacement blade. If you happen to have a serviceable part 47-110-250-23 lying around, please let me know (yellow tag and service/hours records, please). The damaged one was only about half way through its expected life limit, so it's a real shame to need replacement.
 

WaspAir

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The FBI called me back following my online report. They naturally can't offer much hope of catching the perpetrator, but they confirmed that they are the right agency to call, took it very seriously, and are notifying all the field offices in the region in case other incidents arise.
 

WaspAir

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Years ago while on approach into Compton Airport (KCPM) I was hit in my aft fuselage of my Piper Pacer by three rounds of small arms fire. The rounds did not hit any of the structure, and passed harmlessly though the fabric covering. I figured the shooter was not leading his shots properly by aiming at me in the cockpit. I patched the holes up with duct tape (emergency patch material in the baggage compartment) and flew home.

During the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, we had a Cal Guard UH-1 take some rounds in the aft tail cone. Must of been the same shooter.

Wayne
Thank heavens for poor marksmanship. Wish I could just duct tape my blade!
 

13brv3

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The FBI called me back following my online report. They naturally can't offer much hope of catching the perpetrator, but they confirmed that they are the right agency to call, took it very seriously, and are notifying all the field offices in the region in case other incidents arise.
Are they going to inspect the damage themselves to see if they think it was a bullet?
 

WaspAir

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They've got photos from me for now, and I'll be keeping the damaged blade. If they can identify a suspect (unlikely) the blade will still be available. My impression is that they are proceeding on the basis of a bullet.
 

WaspAir

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I gave them a link to my ADS-B track for the flight, on which the place of the incident is obvious (a quick jink off course, followed by a turn around and course reversal directly back to base). The track shows gps location, altitude, speed, course, and time/date, but there's nothing obviously suspicious below it.

Finally got some value out of that expensive ADS-B gear!

By the way, both NTSB and FBI were very easy to deal with.
 

Resasi

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It’s a bit chilling knowing there are people out there who will fire at a vehicle or aircraft knowing that they could kill someone, without giving it a second thought.
 
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