TAILBOOM MOTION DETECTION SYSTEM
2022 Helicopter Safety Equipment Update
Aircraft Structural Repair, Inc.
Identified 7 UH-1 tailboom longeron failures &
Repaired and modified with Tailboom Motion Detection System
Testimony from pilot who was saved by the BART Tailboom Motion Detection System
I was conducting an aerial fighting mission this last summer near The Dalles, Oregon. It was a very
windy day as it often is in this area. I was about 30 minutes into my second 2-hour fuel cycle when I
heard a bang as I was coming out of the dip site. When you hear a noise like that you start thinking
immediately what could have caused that noise. At first I thought the bang could have come from my longline shackle or a cable on the bucket getting a twist in it, or even maybe the bumper ring on the
hook hitting the side of the air frame.Due to the windy conditions, all these scenarios were possible
and have happened in the past. As these possibilities where running threw my head I noticed my
master caution TAILBOOM light had illuminated. I knew right then that I needed to land the aircraft. I
released my water from my bucket and landed safely at a nearby boat ramp. I landed without incident.
As I was sitting on the ground running my light was flickering. The light flickering indicated to me that
the tailboom was loose and most likely not a wiring issue. After shutting down the aircraft, I started to
inspect what I could see for damage. I was looking for broken or loose tailboom bolts. I found what
looked like a crack in the upper LH tailboom fitting. I knew right then I had made the right choice to
The aircraft was trailered to Aircraft Structural Repair for further evaluation and repair. Upon taking the
fitting out and replacing it with a new fitting there was no evidence that it had been cracked prior to
breaking. This is one of those cases that a thorough preflight and/or routine maintenance would not
have prevented the damage in flight.
The bottom line is, I may have not decided to land had I not had the illuminated tailboom light and even if I had I may not have known where to look for a problem and neither would have my mechanic. This system has turned out to be one of the most beneficial modifications that we have done to our UH1-F aircraft. Since this incident occurred we made it a priority to install this system in the remainder of our fleet.
Dustin Wood at
Aircraft Structural Repair, Inc.
by email at email@example.com
or by phone at 406-531-7297
Introducing the BART UH-1 Tailboom Motion Detection System
On September 16, 2013, about 1535 Pacific daylight time, a Garlick UH-1B, N204UH, experienced a tailboom separation in heavily wooded terrain about 3 miles east of Detroit, Oregon. The pilot, who was the sole occupant on board, was fatally injured. The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the tailboom, main rotor system, and fuselage.
Witnesses reported that when the helicopter was just above the trees, they either observed or heard the load of logs release early and impact the ground hard. After looking up, they observed the helicopter's fuselage separate from the tailboom; both descending through the trees. The fuselage impacted the ground inverted and the tailboom came to rest about 140 feet away.
At the memorial service for the pilot, Bart Colantuono, UH-1 operators and mechanics in attendance sat down at table and discussed the accident, causes and possible solutions to alleviate losing any more aircraft or pilots in the same type of accident. Many UH-1 operators are already aware that the tailboom fittings in UH-1 helicopters can be fractured after continual external lifts and those in attendance immediately focused on this as the cause.
As far as a solution, the idea of a tail boom motion detector was proposed during the impromptu gathering. Aircraft Structural Repair’s owner, Dustin Wood, from Stevensville, Montana worked with operators of UH-1’s and developed a working tail boom motion detection system, called the BART system, to initially install into UH-1B helicopters with a tailboom plug.
“It is nice to see operators and mechanics working together to come up with solutions that can save lives,” said Dustin Wood “Being proactive about finding a life saving solution so Bart did not die in vain was important to us all”
The system was put to the test on February 14, 2015 a pilot in the Northwest was performing 133, external load operation in an UH-1B helicopter with the BART tailboom motion detection system installed. While flying a load the pilot heard a loud bang and immediately noticed the master caution light was on and the caution panel was illuminated with the “TAILBOOM” caution light. The pilot immediately removed all left pedal input, released the load, and landed with as minimal left pedal as possible – without incident.
Upon inspection, the upper LH fitting was found cracked as well as the sheet-metal on the upper LH tailboom bulkhead. Behind the upper left hand bolt, there is a visible crack in the sheet-metal. Two pilots who flew this helicopter and checked the fitting closely prior to this flight with high powered flashlights did not see any visible cracking or rivets smoking that would have indicated there was a crack or weak area.
The broken fitting was taken to a metallurgist who determined the length of time the fitting was cracked was minimal. The smoking on the cracked surface was said by the metallurgist to be seepage from the rivet. According to the pilot it was evident by this incident that a full break in the tailboom fitting could become catastrophic immediately.
Aircraft Structural Repair of Stevensville Montana offers the BART tail boom motion detection system for UH-1’s for purchase. This includes the installation of a Tailboom Motion Detection System to alert the pilot of a cracked upper LH tail boom fitting, longeron or attach bolt. The system consists of a rod encased in tubing to the interior of the tail boom and extending forward into the fuselage where a micro switch is attached to the air frame. Upon failure of an upper LH tail boom fitting, longeron or attach bolt the switch will illuminate the master caution panel indicating TAILBOOM. In most cases the BART system can be installed in 12 hours or less. This is now a STC!!
“Since the BART Motion detection system was introduced at the HAI Huey Forum in Orlando in March 2015 interest has been steady from operators contacting me” according to Dustin Wood “We would like to get more of them installed, save more lives and make the UH-1 fleet that much safer”