Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain 10 km east of Cairns Aerodrome, Qld. Robinson Helicopter Company R44 Clipper II, VH-RYW, 18 June 2008

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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At 1026 Eastern Standard Time on 18 June 2008, a Robinson Helicopter Company R44 Clipper II helicopter, registered VH-RYW, departed Cairns Airport, Qld, to film a residential development site that was located in the vicinity of False Cape, about 10 km east of the airport. On board the helicopter were the pilot and three passengers.

The occupants of the helicopter reported that while conducting the second period of filming, there was a sudden and violent movement of the nose of the helicopter to the right, which continued into a rapid rotation of the helicopter. The pilot's reported attempt to reduce the rate of right yaw was unsuccessful, and he entered autorotation and attempted to reach a clear area. The helicopter subsequently collided with trees before impacting the ground, seriously injuring the pilot and front seat passenger.

This accident highlighted the risk of loss of tail rotor effectiveness associated with the conduct of aerial filming/photography and other similar flights involving high power, low forward airspeed and the action of adverse airflow on a helicopter.

The investigation also identified that the lack of the nomination of a search and rescue or scheduled reporting time for the flight, decreased the likelihood of a timely response in the case of an emergency.

In response to this accident, the helicopter manufacturer advised that it was considering a revision to the aerial survey and photography flights safety notice that was contained in the R44 Pilot's Operating Handbook. That revision would, if adopted, include a discussion of the risk of unanticipated right yaw associated with the conduct of those flights.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 2.05MB]
General details
Date: 18 June 2008   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1039 EST   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): False Cape    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Loss of control  
Release date: 09 December 2009   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Serious  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R44  
Aircraft registration VH-RYW  
Serial number 11163  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Cairns, Qld  
Destination Cairns, Qld  
Crew details
Role Class of licence Hours on type Hours total
Pilot-in-Command Commercial 188.7 312.1
  Crew Passenger Ground Total
Serious: 1 1 0 2
Minor: 0 2 0 2
Total: 1 3 0 4
Last update 03 April 2020