Aviation safety investigations & reports

Bell helicopter 47G-3B1, VH-FJO, Cairns, Gordonvale area, Qld, 26 April 1972

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 26 April, 1972, a Bell 47 G3B1 helicopter registered VH-FJO disappeared while on a flight in the Gordonvale, Queensland, area and no trace has been found of the aircraft or its occupants.

The aircraft departed from Cairns at 0929 hours and at 0953 hours the pilot notified Cairns Tower that he was unable to climb above 6,000 feet. He inquired if there were any breaks in the cloud in the Cairns aerodrome area which would allow him to return and climb to 10,000 feet. The Tower Controller notified the pilot that the sky was completely overcast and the pilot requested a clearance to return on descent to Cairns. The tower controller issued a clearance for the aircraft to make a visual approach with an instruction to report approaching the city. At 0954 hours the pilot acknowledged receipt of the clearance by saying the aircraft's call sign. No further communications were received and the aircraft did not arrive at Cairns. At 1022 hours, after numerous efforts to establish contact with the aircraft had been unsuccessful, Cairns Tower declared the Uncertainty Phase of Search and Rescue Procedures. At 1030 hours, after further efforts to contact the aircraft, the Alert Phase was declared. The Distress Phase was declared by Townsville Operational Control Centre at 1101 hours and search action was initiated. The first search aircraft departed Cairns at 1214 hours and during the succeeding days civil and military aircraft flew 74 sorties involving a total of 150 hours 45 minutes. The air search was supplemented by extensive ground searching. The search continued until 1700 hours on 18 May, 1972.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 175KB]
General details
Date: 26 April 1972   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1000 ESuT    
Location: Cairns, Gordonvale area    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Miscellaneous - Other  
Release date: 25 March 1973   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model 47  
Aircraft registration VH-FJO  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Cairns  
Destination Cairns  
Last update 13 May 2014