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Summary

Summary

On 20 April 2009, a Robinson Helicopter Company R44 (Raven II) helicopter, registered VH-EZT (EZT), was conducting aerial spraying operations near Langkoop, Victoria. Spraying commenced at 0800 Central Standard Time with a load of 300 L of foliar fertiliser. There were two helicopters spraying the pine paddocks that morning and the operating crews were to break for lunch at about 1300 at a pre-arranged meeting place. Just prior to lunch, the pilot of EZT was tasked with a number of unplanned spray runs and a cleanup run to complete the morning's spraying. When the helicopter did not arrive at the pre-arranged meeting place, the pilot of the second helicopter commenced searching and located the wreckage of EZT in a paddock, near a powerline. The pilot of EZT was fatally injured.

Helicopter EZT contacted a powerline that intersected the northern half of the final spray paddock before colliding with the ground. An examination of the wreckage of the helicopter did not find any mechanical abnormalities that might have contributed to the accident.

Recorded data from the helicopter's satellite navigation system showed that after completing the planned spray runs, the pilot did not conduct a reconnaissance of the unfamiliar area to the south of the plantation to identify any hazards. A reconnaissance flight may have alerted the pilot to the presence of the previously-identified powerline.

The investigation found that an additional hazard identification check prior to the conduct of a cleanup run was not routinely practiced by the pilots, or monitored by the operator. In response to that safety issue, the operator has advised that they will enhance the wire avoidance procedures in their operations manual and mandate that an additional hazard identification check shall be completed prior to any cleanup run.

In addition, the investigation determined that there were no fluid quantity markings on the helicopter's spray tank, and that the spray system included unapproved modifications that increased the risk of overweight operations.

 
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