On 17 March 2010, a Cessna Aircraft Company 152 (C152), registered VH-PVV, and a Robinson Helicopter Co. R44 (R44), registered VH-HUL, were operating from the Cessnock Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) aerodrome, New South Wales (NSW). A flight instructor and student pilot were on board the C152 and were preparing to take off from runway 35 to commence a session of dual circuit training. At about the same time, the R44 was taxied for a departure from runway 17 grass-left on a private flight with only the pilot on board the helicopter. Both aircraft were operating under the Visual Flight Rules (VFR) in Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC). Both aircraft's radio communication systems were serviceable and used by the pilots during the occurrence sequence.
The pilot in command (PIC) of the C152 reported taking evasive action, shortly after becoming airborne on runway 35, to avoid the R44 allegedly taking off in the opposite direction. The PIC of the R44 reported that he had positioned the helicopter outside of the runway 17 flight strip and had sighted the C152 taking off. The R44 pilot also reported that he had just transitioned into forward flight from the hover when the C152 was abeam his position and that at no time did a collision risk exist. However, the C152 pilot was adamant that the R44 commenced the takeoff along runway 17 and presented an imminent collision risk.
The differing accounts from both pilots could not be reconciled. No additional reports from potential eyewitnesses were received by the ATSB. The incident serves as a useful reminder for both fixedwing and rotary-wing pilots to review the various requirements governing their respective operations at CTAF aerodromes and, in particular, to be mindful that helicopters may not be operating to the same pattern as fixed-wing aircraft. Pilots are advised to consult relevant Civil Aviation Advisory Publications (CAAPs), effective 3 June 2010, regarding changes to operations at non-towered (non-controlled) aerodromes.