On 30 July 2010, an Aerospatiale Industries AS.350BA (Squirrel) helicopter, registered VH-HVT, was being flown up a valley between Healesville and Narbethong, Victoria (Vic.). There was low cloud in the area, which was sitting on a ridgeline the helicopter needed to cross. The pilot reported that he hovered the helicopter near the ridgeline, about 10 ft (3 m) above the tree canopy and on the edge of the cloud base for about 2 to 3 minutes, hoping for a break in the cloud sufficient to allow passage.
The pilot reported that he decided it was not possible to cross the ridgeline and commenced a right turn to return via the same route. About two thirds of the way through the turn, when the helicopter was travelling at between 10 and 15 kts, it struck a branch that was protruding above the tree canopy. The branch broke the helicopter's right side chin bubble and brushed against the side of the helicopter. The pilot assessed the damage and decided to continue the flight back to Essendon, Vic. The helicopter landed at Essendon without further incident.
An inspection of the helicopter found that the branch had scraped against the flat side of one of the tail rotor blade. A closer examination of the blade found a small void in the composite core of the blade. The blade was subsequently repaired and returned to service.
|Date:||30 July 2010||Investigation status:||Completed|
|Time:||1110 EST||Investigation level:||Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels|
|Release date:||14 October 2010||Occurrence category:||Serious Incident|
|Report status:||Final||Highest injury level:||None|
|Aircraft manufacturer||Aerospatiale Industries|
|Type of operation||Aerial Work|
|Departure point||Essendon Vic.|