Proper preparation leads to a positive outcome from emergency ditching

The ATSB is highlighting that proper preparation can reduce the risk of injury from emergency situations such as ditching.

Robinson R44, VH-WRR, ditched near Hamilton Island, Queensland

The ATSB’s report into the partial engine power loss and ditching of a Robinson R44, near Hamilton Island, Queensland, found adequate preparation and post-landing actions by the pilot lead to a positive outcome from an emergency ditching.

On 8 November 2017, passengers of a scenic flight were given a safety briefing advising them to wear their seatbelts and life jackets, which they complied. About 40 minutes into the one-hour flight, the helicopter began to lose engine power. After unsuccessful attempts to increase power, the pilot elected to conduct an autorotation onto the water.

The pilot successfully landed the helicopter on the water, shut down the engine, and applied the rotor brake. The pilot then activated the emergency locator transmitter and instructed passengers to inflate their life jackets and prepare to exit the helicopter, if necessary. The passengers and the pilot, who were uninjured, were rescued by the crew of a local vessel about an hour later.

Transport safety is a shared responsibility.
Operators, pilots and passengers all need to understand and follow safety instructions, procedures and policies.

ATSB Executive Director, Transport Safety Nat Nagy says the incident highlights the importance of pilots conducting a thorough pre-flight safety briefing and for passengers and aircraft to be properly equipped for an emergency situation.

“Transport safety is a shared responsibility,” said Mr Nagy. “Operators, pilots, and passengers all need to understand and follow safety instructions, procedures and policies.”   In this instance the combination of the emergency floatation system, passengers wearing their life jackets and the pilot’s post-landing actions resulted in a positive outcome from a potentially dangerous situation.

“Without the emergency floatation system the risk of the helicopter sinking with the passengers and pilot on board would have been far greater.”

Read the investigation report: AO-2017-110 Partial engine power loss and ditching involving Robinson R44, VH-WRR, 49 km N of Hamilton Island Airport, Queensland, on 8 November 2017

Last update 02 May 2018