The Robinson R22 helicopter had been engaged in cattle mustering operations on the day of the accident. Late in the afternoon the pilot invited one of the stockmen to accompany him on a flight to a nearby tourist resort to purchase bread for the stockcamp. They arrived at Ross River Homestead resort at about 1700 CST and some time later decided to remain overnight at the resort. Witnesses reported that the pilot had consumed a quantity of alcohol during the course of the evening.
At about 2345-2400 witnesses heard the helicopter engine start and run for a period of time before the helicopter was seen to take-off and depart in a north-easterly direction. It climbed steeply to about 600 ft above ground level, after which the engine noise appeared to change and the aircraft descended quickly until impact with the terrain. Searchers found the wreckage soon after first light the next morning on a flat area of land between hills, approximately 800 m from the resort.
Witnesses reported that at the time of the accident there was no wind. There was a high level cloud overcast and very dark conditions. Examination of the astronomical ephemeris (a table of the moon's position), confirmed that the moon did not rise until approximately 3 hours after the accident. The helicopter was not equipped for flight under the instrument flight rules.
The evidence showed that the helicopter impacted the terrain banked to the right, in a nose-low attitude, and at high forward and vertical speeds. Impact forces destroyed the forward right and central cockpit area of the aircraft. The investigation could find no evidence of pre-existing damage to any of the helicopter's flight control systems. The type of damage to the main and tail rotor blades indicated low power and low rotor RPM at impact. Examination of the engine indicated that it was either at idle or a very low power setting at impact. The investigation determined that sufficient clean fuel of the correct grade was on board the helicopter at the time to power the engine. No defect was identified that may have influenced the circumstances of the accident.
Due to the severity of the impact, the accident was not survivable.
|Date:||09 July 1999||Investigation status:||Completed|
|Time:||0003 hours CST|
|Location:||Ross River Homestead, 80 km E Alice Springs|
|State:||Northern Territory||Occurrence type:||Collision with terrain|
|Release date:||03 November 1999||Occurrence category:||Accident|
|Report status:||Final||Highest injury level:||Fatal|
|Aircraft manufacturer||Robinson Helicopter Co|
|Type of operation||Private|
|Damage to aircraft||Destroyed|
|Departure point||Ross River Homestead, NT|
|Departure time||1201 hours CST|
|Role||Class of licence||Hours on type||Hours total|