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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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Download Preliminary Report
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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.

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Safety issue

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 type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):Dorrigo Occurrence type:VFR into IMC 
State: New South Wales Occurrence class: Operational 
Release date: 11 May 2011 Occurrence category: Accident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: Fatal 
 
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 
 
 
 
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Last update 02 March 2016