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An ATSB investigation into a fatal helicopter accident has highlighted the continuing risks facing pilots when flying around powerlines.

On 20 May 2010, a helicopter struck a powerline during forestry spraying operations near the Latrobe Valley Airport in Victoria. The helicopter crashed and the pilot, the only person on board, died.

The ATSB's investigation report, released today, describes how the pilot struck the wire on the final spray run despite being aware of the wire's location.

ATSB Chief Commissioner, Mr Martin Dolan, said this accident is part of a worrying trend in aviation accidents.

"Tragically, pilots continue to die in wirestrike accidents," Mr Dolan said.

"More than 180 wirestrike accidents have been reported to the ATSB over the past 10 years.

"Pilots must always be alert to the risks of flying near wires. Using basic strategies to manage these risks, such as using temporary powerline markers as advised in this report can save pilots' lives."

The ATSB and the Aerial Agriculture Association of Australia recently released an educational booklet on avoiding wirestrikes. The booklet describes recent wirestrike accidents that occurred during spraying activities. More importantly, it provides ways for pilots to minimise the risk of striking a powerline while conducting aerial operations.

Avoidable Accidents booklet: Wirestrikes involving known wires: A manageable aerial agriculture hazard is available on the ATSB website.

Investigation Report: AO-2010-033

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Last update 23 June 2011