Safety advisory notice issued for regular helicopter underwater escape training

The ATSB has contacted all helicopter operators conducting overwater operations informing them of a new safety advisory notice (SAN AO-2018-022 SAN-001). The notice advises the importance of frequent helicopter underwater escape training (HUET) for aircrew and regular passengers to increase survivability of an in-water accident or ditching.

The safety advisory notice has been issued in light of the initial investigation of a fatal collision with water of a twin-engine Eurocopter EC135 helicopter, registered VH-ZGA, north-west of Port Hedland, Western Australia on 14 March 2018. A preliminary report into the investigation was released today.

Helicopter underwater escape training (HUET)

Examination of the helicopter operator’s records revealed the deceased pilot, who was recently employed by the operator, had not undertaken HUET for nine years. The helicopter operator normally required company pilots to complete a HUET course every three years.

HUET involves a replica of a helicopter cabin and fuselage being lowered into a swimming pool and rolled inverted to simulate a crash situation. During the training students practice bracing for impact, identifying primary and secondary exit points, escaping the helicopter and surfacing techniques.ATSB Executive Director, Transport Safety, Mr Nat Nagy said that frequent under water escape training is an important factor in increasing the survivability of an in-water accident.

All helicopter operators involved with overwater operations are encouraged to ensure their aircrews are regularly trained in helicopter underwater escape techniques.

“In light of our initial investigation, the ATSB has contacted all helicopter operators that are involved in overwater operations to deliver a safety advisory notice,” Mr Nagy said. “The ATSB strongly recommends that aircrew and regular passengers on these sorts of operations receive training in under water escape to increase survivability in the event of a ditching such as this one.”

Read the preliminary investigation report: AO-2018-022 Collision with water involving a twin-engine Eurocopter EC135 helicopter, VH-ZGA 35 km north-west of Port Hedland, Western Australia, on 14 March 2018

Read the safety advisory notice (SAN): AO-2018-022 SAN-001

Last update 03 May 2018