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Prepare for the worst - always carry personal communications equipment

  • When conducting remote area aerial operations, always carry personal communications equipment.
  • Take appropriate care when refuelling aircraft.
  • In emergency or abnormal situations, it is important to make decisions that reduce the level of risk to the safety of the aircraft and its occupants.
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The ATSB is highlighting the importance of carrying personal communication equipment and taking extreme care when refuelling aircraft. This comes after an accident where a helicopter was destroyed by fire and the two occupants were left without any survival gear or communications equipment.

On 19 June 2012, the helicopter, a Eurocopter AS-350BA, was 15 minutes into a flight from Ceduna to Border Village, South Australia when the pilot and passenger smelt fumes in the cockpit. Shortly after smelling the fumes, the pilot conducted an emergency landing in a remote area about 50 km west of Ceduna. Once on the ground, the passenger exited the helicopter and noticed smoke and fire coming from the rear cargo compartment. The pilot and passenger escaped without injury.

Neither the pilot nor the passenger was carrying a satellite phone or a personal emergency radio beacon.

The helicopter was fitted with an Emergency Locator Transmitter which could have transmitted their position to Search and Rescue. However, it did not activate and was destroyed in the fire. Neither the pilot nor the passenger was carrying a satellite phone or a personal emergency radio beacon (EPIRB). Fortunately, they were rescued several hours later.

The investigation could not determine the cause of the fire but an earlier spillage during refuelling may have provided an initial fuel source for the fire. The operator has since ensured that all operations will have the appropriate equipment, and has amended the procedures for carrying large containers of fuel.

This incident also highlights the importance of making decisions to reduce the level of risk to the safety of the aircraft and its occupants in emergency or abnormal situations.

Read the investigation report, AO-2012-084.

 
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Last update 15 January 2013