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Interim Factual

Summary

Interim Factual report released 22 November 2005

At 1828 Eastern Standard Time on 11 October 2005, a Kawasaki Heavy Industries BK117 B-2 multi-engine helicopter, registered VH-BKS, was being operated on a night Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight to Maroochydore, Qld. The pilot, had flown the helicopter on a medical flight from Maroochydore to Brisbane's Princess Alexandria Hospital earlier that evening and was repositioning to Maroochydore with the paramedic and crewman on board.

The pilot intended to fly direct to Maroochydore, VFR on top of scattered1 cloud at 4,500 ft. Soon after reaching 4,000 ft, the pilot noted that the cloud along the intended track was 4 OKTAS below the level of the helicopter. However, shortly after, the pilot observed the weather as solid overcast beneath him. He reported that the Brisbane approach controller subsequently advised him that the weather at Maroochydore had deteriorated to broken cloud at 1,000 ft above ground level (AGL).

The pilot continued with the flight to Maroochydore and conducted a Maroochydore runway 36 VOR/DME2 approach in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). The helicopter was not equipped for single-pilot Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) operations, nor was the pilot the holder of a current Command Multi- Engine Instrument Rating (Helicopters).

The pilot reported that he did not return to Brisbane because the Brisbane Approach controller made a broadcast to all aircraft inbound to Brisbane 'that an Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach was mandatory'. He said that he assumed this to mean he would have to conduct an IFR approach he was unfamiliar with. He did not declare an emergency. The pilot was an experienced ex-military pilot, with extensive IFR experience. He reported entering cloud at 2,600 ft and broke visual during the approach at 760 ft. The IFR minimum descent altitude for that approach was 660 ft. The pilot reported landing with 45 minutes usable fuel remaining.

Area forecasts indicated that, for the planned flight, VFR operations were possible. The pilot planned the flight using a TAF (Terminal Aerodrome Forecast) for Maroochydore that was valid from midday to midnight on the day of the occurrence. That TAF indicated visibility greater than 10 km and scattered cloud at 2,500ft. The pilot assessed this as suitable for VFR.

An amended TAF for Maroochydore valid from 1800 that evening through to 0600 the following morning, was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology at 1626. That TAF indicated visibility greater than 10 km, few3 clouds at 1,000 ft and scattered cloud at 2,500 ft. The pilot reported he did not have the amended TAF and did not access further weather information after 1400 because he had assessed, during the preceding flight to Brisbane, that the weather was suitable for a return VFR flight to Maroochydore.


  1. Defined as 3 to 4 OKTAS (unit of visible sky area representing 1/8 of the total area visible to the celestial horizon).
  2. VHF Omni-directional radio range/Distance Measuring Equipment.
  3. Defined as 1 to 2 OKTAS.
 
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