PHOENIX — Federal authorities investigating a fatal crash last month near Phoenix say the helicopter went into a near-vertical descent for unclear reasons when it was about to land.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued its preliminary report Thursday on the April 15 crash of a Robinson R22 helicopter at Gila Bend Municipal Airport about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix.
The student pilot was the only person aboard and was declared dead at the scene after the helicopter crashed short of the runway.
According to the NTSB report, the helicopter was flying from Chandler Municipal Airport to Gila Bend’s airport as a training flight.
The report said a witness about a half-mile west of the crash site reported seeing the helicopter approach the runway and then go into a “rapid, near-vertical descent” despite the main and tail rotor blades still apparently rotating.
The witness said the helicopter struck the ground about 212 feet from the edge of the runway.
NTSB officials said the heavily damaged helicopter was retained for further investigation.
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