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On 1 December 2009 at approximately 0730 EST, the forward, left-side cargo door of a Eurocopter AS350D helicopter (registered VH-PIH) separated from the helicopter fuselage during fire-fighting operations near Maryborough, Queensland. The helicopter subsequently landed safely and there were no injuries.

It was probable that separation of the cargo door occurred as a consequence of replacement of the door seal during a recent overhaul. That replacement resulted in the door sitting proud of the mating surfaces when closed and latched. Elevated air loads acting on the door as a product of its overly proud position would subsequently have led to its fracture.

It was considered that the installation of improved door locks per Service Bulletin SB 52.00.25 and SB 52.00.26 would likely address this safety issue and significantly reduce the likelihood of a future AS350 cargo door separation event.

As a result of this occurrence the operator applied the cargo door lock modifications detailed in SB 52.00.25 and SB 52.00.26 to the new door installed on VH-PIH. In addition, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has issued a Safety Advisory Notice to all operators of Eurocopter AS350 aircraft to consider the implications of the safety issue and take action where considered appropriate.

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Safety issue

AO-2009-073-SI-01 -  

Cargo door seal exceeds flushness tolerance

Installation of new cargo door seals resulted in the cargo door being held outside of the flushness requirement specified in the aircraft maintenance manual

Safety issue details
Issue number:AO-2009-073-SI-01
Who it affects:Operators of Eurocopter AS350 helicopters

General details
Date: 01 December 2009 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0730 EST  
Location   (show map):28km NW Sunshine Coast Airport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland Occurrence type: Navigation - Other 
Release date: 11 April 2011 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Aerospatiale Industries 
Aircraft model: AS350 
Aircraft registration: VH-PIH 
Serial number: 1341 
Type of operation: Aerial Work 
Sector: Helicopter 
Damage to aircraft: Minor 

Safety Advisory Notice

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Last update 14 November 2018