H-21 ENGINE FAILURE – GOOSE BAY - 1959 by K.V. Hall
Occasionally the helicopter would make a flight to the R&R fish camps. I was scheduled for a night flight but they needed to replace a radio at the camp so I was sent to fetch it before night time. We took a good radio out and loaded up the broke one plus some stuff (fish) that an airman had forgotten to take home. We took off right at sunset to go back to Goose. There was an SA-16 flying cover for us and soon after takeoff they lost sight of us. As I made a 360 turn to regain visual contact, something just didn't feel right. (You know how helicopter pilots get.) I carefully checked all the instruments and saw nothing out of the ordinary. From habit I also glanced over the terrain just in case something happened. I had just rolled back on course when the engine quit. We were over a lake, downwind, and about 500 feet altitude. I might make the far lake shore but I would be downwind and unable to slow down for landing. Not knowing the depth of the lake's water and just coming back from Sondrestrom where the water was several hundred fathoms deep, I didn't want to ditch. I had spotted a small clearing behind us when making the 360 turn so I headed for it, stretching the glide for all it was worth. Mind you, all this decision making took place in a split second. Thank God for thousands of practice autorotations at the School. Everything was on automatic. We would almost make it to the clearing. I began a flare just over the treetops and quickly felt the blades whacking the 20 foot pine trees. Then the aircraft lurched down and slammed into the ground, chopping the trees as it went. When everything came to stop we quickly shut off the switches and exited the aircraft. One of the passengers had a small bump on his head but no other injuries. I went back in and turned on the radio to contact the SA-16. I notified them of our situation and they located us and made a flyby over our position.
Since it was going on nightfall we didn't expect to see any rescue until morning. The chopper would not be flown out. Besides the failed engine, the blades were twisted and bent from striking the trees and ground. The nose gear was broken off and the right main gear had caught a snag and the strut was broken and stuck up through the belly. We later discovered it had punctured the fuel tank and gasoline was leaking into the compartment where the battery was. We didn't want to use the battery or radio now since a spark would be disastrous.
We broke out the sleeping bags and other gear to spend the night. There were C-rations in the survival kit but we remembered the fish that was sent with us and figured they would spoil so we might as well eat them. After unwrapping the package we discovered four T-bone steaks. So we threw the stupid fish away and made a grill from safety wire to BBQ the steaks. Best meal I had while at “ the Goose.” The next morning a Rescue H-21 from Goose came out to pick us up. They flew around and around taking pictures. There wasn't any place to land so they had to hoist us up and they had screwed around so long that now they were low on fuel. Anyway, they finally got us all retrieved and headed back to Goose.
After a chickenshit Accident Review Board, I found that the cause of the engine failure was failure of No. 1 cylinder piston wrist pin that ultimately went through the side of the engine. There was nothing I did to cause or prevent the accident although the whole crew was raked over the coals. Of course the Chairman of the board was the Director of Maintenance and he wanted a pilot to blame. What really pissed me off was that the review took so long that it cost me a second trip to Greenland where a guy could get some flying time.