On 2 February 2006, a Bell Helicopter Co 206B (III), registered VH-MFI arrived at Parkes Aerodrome from Dubbo, NSW in preparation for an aerial noxious weeds survey, including the requirement for a closer inspection of the eastern border area of the Parkes Shire Council. At an estimated 0923 Eastern Daylight-saving time, the pilot took off for the estimated 7 to 8 minutes flight to the survey area. Also onboard the helicopter were two council weeds control officers.
Witness reports indicated that, at about 0930, the helicopter struck a powerline that crossed the Parkes to Orange road.
The occupants of the helicopter were fatally injured and the helicopter was destroyed by impact forces and a post-impact, fuel-fed fire. There was no damage to the powerline or associated facilities and structures.
As a result of this investigation, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) indicated that it was considering the development of a Civil Aviation Order (CAO) with the effect that anyone carrying out low-level operations would have to satisfy relevant low-level flying standards.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) issued two recommendations as a result of this investigation, including: the possible enhancement of the content of CASA's Approval to conduct Low-flying Instruments and the possible development of a Civil Aviation Advisory Publication or Advisory Circular for application in the conduct of low-level operations. In addition, the ATSB has commenced initial discussions with a number of agencies and associations in order to examine the feasibility of the establishment of a national database of information on the location of known powerlines and tall structures for access by pilots, operators and managers of aerial campaigns.
Aviation Safety Recommendations
Preliminary report released 22 March 2006
On 2 February 2006, a Bell Helicopter Company 206B (III) aircraft, registered VH-MFI, was being operated in the area east of Parkes, NSW on a noxious weed identification survey at low-level, for a local council. At about 0930 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, the helicopter was observed to strike a powerline about 130 ft above ground level (Figure 1), in a location known as 'The Dungeons', approximately 23 km east of Parkes. All three occupants were fatally injured.
Figure 1: Powerline running between arrow heads
Examination of the wreckage revealed that the helicopter struck the powerline with the left landing gear skid (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Landing skid wire contact marks
This led to the tail boom and tail rotor assembly being severed from the fuselage by the main rotor (Figure 3), as a result of which the helicopter entered an uncontrolled descent from which recovery was not possible. The helicopter was destroyed by impact forces and post-impact fire.
Figure 3: Severed tail rotor section
A witness reported that the helicopter appeared to be operating normally until it struck the powerline. The pilot was qualified to undertake the flight and the helicopter was being operated within the manufacturer's prescribed weight and centre of gravity limits.
The investigation is continuing and will include examination of:
- low-level operational planning by the council and the helicopter operator
- low-level obstacle information databases, and the accessibility of database information to low level operators, aircrew, and contractors.
|Date:||02 February 2006||Investigation status:||Completed|
|Time:||0930 ESuT||Investigation level:||Complex - click for an explanation of investigation levels|
|Location:||15km E Parkes, Aerodrome|
|State:||New South Wales||Occurrence type:||Wirestrike|
|Release date:||03 August 2007||Occurrence category:||Accident|
|Report status:||Final||Highest injury level:||Fatal|
|Aircraft manufacturer||Bell Helicopter Co|
|Type of operation||Aerial Work|
|Damage to aircraft||Destroyed|
|Departure point||Parkes, NSW|
|Departure time||0910 ESuT|
|Role||Class of licence||Hours on type||Hours total|