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Fatal collision with terrain

Eurocopter VH-RDU pre-accident

A fatal helicopter accident on a mountain peak left two dead and one seriously injured.

On 8 September 2011, a chartered Eurocopter AS350BA, with a pilot and two passengers on board, was travelling to a helicopter landing site in the Shoalwater Bay military training area in Queensland. The crew were assisting in maintenance of landing sites throughout the area.  The site they were visiting was situated atop the south-eastern peak of Double Mountain. Located at an elevation of 2,421 ft, (738 m), the site was surrounded by trees on three sides with a mast and antenna array on the other.

The direction from which the pilot had approached the site was probably with a wind from the right and ... would have been vulnerable to any unexpected turbulence.

The pilot made four passes of the helipad and then, while hovering or moving at a low speed, the helicopter climbed and started to rotate left. The pilot was unable to control the rotation and the helicopter descended into the trees before colliding in an inverted attitude with the ground. The pilot and front seat passenger were fatally injured and the rear seat passenger received serious injuries. The helicopter was substantially damaged and there was no fire.

The ATSB’s investigation could not positively establish the reason for the pilot’s loss of control, although it is most likely to have resulted from environmental and operational factors. The direction from which the pilot had approached the site was probably with a wind from the right and, during his inspection of the site, would have been vulnerable to any unexpected turbulence.

It is part of the normal competency training for licenced helicopter pilots to receive instruction in pinnacle and confined area operations. Those skills, however, are degradable and it is vitally important to ensure that pilots’ competency and skills are appropriate to the task to which they are assigned. 

Read the ATSB investigation report, AO-2011-110

 

 
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Last update 05 September 2013