Aviation safety investigations & reports

Visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions – Dorrigo, NSW, 9 December 2009, VH-MJO, Bell Helicopter 206L-1 LongRanger

Investigation number:
AO-2009-077
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Summary

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On 9 December 2009, at about 1120 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, the pilot of a Bell Helicopter Company 206L-1 LongRanger, registered VH-MJO, was conducting a visual flight rules fire-fighting support flight in the area of Dorrigo, New South Wales with one passenger on board. Shortly after takeoff, the pilot encountered reduced visibility conditions due to low cloud. Subsequently, all visual reference with the horizon and the ground was lost. The pilot attempted to land, but the helicopter impacted the ground in an uncontrolled state and with significant vertical force. The passenger was fatally injured and the pilot was seriously injured. The helicopter was seriously damaged.

The investigation found that after the pilot established the hover, the helicopter entered the rapidly fluctuating cloud. The pilot lost visual reference and became spatially disoriented and the helicopter impacted the ground in an uncontrolled state. The at times rapidly-moving fog or low cloud in the vicinity of the helicopter landing area (HLA) increased the risk of visual operations encountering instrument meteorological conditions at the HLA.

Following the accident, a full review of the operational procedures affecting the operation was conducted jointly by the then Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water; the NSW Rural Fire Service; and other NSW fire‑fighting authorities. An action plan was implemented to make several safety enhancements to those operational procedures. In addition, the National Parks and Wildlife Service ceased operations at the Dorrigo helicopter landing site.

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Alternate: [Download  DOC: 3.56MB]
 

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Preliminary

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Preliminary Report Released 8 February 2010

On 9 December 2009, the pilot of a Bell Helicopter Co. 206L-1 LongRanger, registered VH-MJO, was conducting a visual flight rules (VFR) flight at Dorrigo NSW, with one passenger on board. Shortly after takeoff, he encountered reduced visibility conditions due to low cloud. Subsequently, all visual reference with the horizon and the ground was lost. The pilot attempted to conduct a landing but the helicopter impacted the ground with a significant vertical force. As a result, the pilot was seriously injured and the passenger was fatally injured. The helicopter was seriously damaged.

Download Preliminary Report
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Safety Issue

Go to AO-2009-077-SI-01 -

Low visibility risk at helicopter landing area

The helicopter landing area was occasionally subjected to rapidly-moving fog or low cloud that increased the risk of flights under the visual flight rules encountering instrument meteorological conditions.

Safety issue details
Issue number: AO-2009-077-SI-01
Who it affects: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and helicopter operators at the Dorrigo facility.
Status: Adequately addressed
General details
Date: 09 December 2009   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1125 ESuT   Investigation level: Complex - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Dorrigo    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: VFR into IMC  
Release date: 11 May 2011   Occurrence class: Operational  
Report status: Final   Occurrence category: Accident  
  Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model 206  
Aircraft registration VH-MJO  
Serial number 45745  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Serious  
Last update 14 November 2018