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Preliminary

Summary

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

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

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

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.
 
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