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Wirestrike warning for pilots

A recent accident involving a Bell 206 helicopter highlights the ongoing dangers wirestrikes pose to pilots flying at low levels in a high workload environment.

On 18 December 2016, the pilot was flying a Bell 206 helicopter from Bathurst to Wagga Wagga, NSW for maintenance, in wet and cloudy weather conditions.

While flying at low level to maintain visibility, the pilot reported that the aircraft ‘yawed slightly right and nose pitched slightly down’. Initially suspecting a tail rotor issue, the pilot continued to maintain control of the aircraft. A few seconds later, the helicopter’s Perspex screen shattered. The pilot then realised the aircraft had struck a wire before landing safely without injury.

The ATSB continues to investigate wirestrike accidents that result in loss of life and serious injury. Over the past 10 years, 18 people have died and more than 20 people suffered serious injury as a result of wirestike accidents.

A recent ATSB investigation into a wirestrike accident involving a Robinson R22 near Blackall, Queensland reinforces the increased risk of striking hazards at low-level flight. On this occasion, the pilot was seriously injured after the aircraft struck a powerline 4.8 metres above the ground. The helicopter was destroyed.

The ATSB reminds pilots operating at low level in a high workload environment to be constantly vigilant for the presence of powerlines and wires.

More information on managing wirestrike hazards can be found in the ATSB’s booklet Avoidable Accidents No. 2 - Wirestrikes involving known wires: A manageable aerial agriculture hazard.

 
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Last update 14 February 2017