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Summary

Summary

At about 1100 Eastern Standard Time on 23 June 2009, a Bell Helicopter Company 206B JetRanger III helicopter, registered VH-CAP commenced agricultural spraying operations at a property located 24 km north-north-east of Albury Aerodrome, New South Wales. At 1223 the pilot repositioned to commence an impromptu spray run that resulted in the helicopter flight path crossing a powerline that was known to the pilot.

The pilot reported that during the impromptu spray run, he was preoccupied with a request from the property owner to modify the planned spray sequence and forgot about the wire until he sighted it a short distance ahead. In response, the pilot initiated a climb to avoid the wire. He heard the helicopter contact the wire and felt the wire arrest the forward movement.

Although the helicopter was fitted with wire-strike protection system (WSPS) equipment, the wirestrike was outside the strike angle and cable span design parameters of the WSPS. The investigation was unable to determine whether the WSPS might have operated as intended, had the wire continued its initial movement towards the cutter blades before itself breaking.

The pilot's last recollection was seeing the ground rapidly approaching. He regained consciousness an unknown period of time later, still securely restrained in the wreckage. He managed to extricate himself and notify his ground crew. The pilot sustained minor injuries.

The investigation found that the inherent difficulty in visually detecting the wire, combined with the operating groundspeed required for chemical application meant that the pilot did not have sufficient time to avoid the wirestrike.

Although no safety issues were identified as a result of this investigation, the protection afforded by the pilot's helmet and the secure restraint offered by the pilot's four-point harness, probably prevented serious, if not fatal injury. Operators and crew would benefit from the consideration of the use of flying helmets, and when feasible, installation of four-point harnesses in their aircraft; particularly during inherently higher risk operations.

 
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