This is what happens when helicopter rotor blades fall off

Well here’s something you don’t see every day. A helicopter with no rotor blades.

They fell off. And by “fell off,” I mean they went flying, including into a nearby truck, where, fortunately, nobody was sitting. If it’d happened a few seconds later, the result would have been tragic.

It happened in Big Lake, Minn., in July 2017 as a pilot was about to make his fifth agricultural spraying run of the day and heard a loud snap, the National Transportation Safety Board said in its final report this week.

It said the cause was a crack in the metal portion of the blade within the wooden portion of it that was undetectable. The blades are no longer manufactured, but there are still about 200 of them in service.

What do you call helicopter blades once they fall off? Kindling.

  • Guest

    YIKES, how are metal blades inspected for cracks versus wood. I would think ability to find fatigue flaws would trump cost.

    • According to the NTSB, they aren’t. There was no guidance in Bell’s maintenance manual for doing so. That’s probably why they’re not made anymore.

  • jon

    Truck seems to have held up better than I would have expected… given some of the other news cut photos where propellers sliced their way through cars or other planes…

    was nice of the rotors to undergo their rapid unscheduled disassembly on when the rest of the helicopter was still on the ground…

    • The most dangerous propellers are the ones that remain attached to the engine.

  • Erik Petersen

    We’ve still been making helicopter rotor blades out of wood in recent years eh. After the chopper went down, what he do, ride his dinosaur home?

    • He didn’t take off. Thus the reference about if it has happen a few moments later.

      Lots propellers are still made with wood, by the way. Maybe not for helicopters (I don’t know helicopters that well; too many moving parts for my taste), but wood propellers are fairly common in small aircraft.

      I’ve never flown with one but pilots I know insist it’s a smoother ride. I never considered it an option because if you fly through rain, that’s a big problem for wood props, I’m told. On a metal prop, it just costs you paint.

      • L. Foonimin

        “… too many moving parts …”

        the definition of a Helicopter; ten thousand metal parts trying to simultaneously move in the same direction.

  • L. Foonimin

    the main component holding the rotor blades to the helicopter is called the “Jesus Nut” for a reason … didn’t seem to be the failure point in this instance.

    Also, it is a helicopter, sometimes a rotor winged aircraft, it can be a hielo, also a ship – but it is never, ever, a chopper!

    • boB from WA

      Although in this case it truly was a “chopper”.

  • Tyler

    I’m surprised wooden rotors can put up with the stresses (obviously this one couldn’t). Those crop sprayer pilots are crazy and fly like banshees.