Preliminary report released 18 March 2011
On 4 February 2011, a Robinson Helicopter Company R44 Astro helicopter (R44), registered VH‑HFH, was conducting circuit operations at Cessnock Aerodrome, New South Wales. On board the helicopter were an instructor, a pilot undergoing a helicopter flight review and a passenger.
Following the completion of a sequence involving the simulated failure of the helicopter's hydraulic‑boost system, the instructor assessed that the hydraulic system had actually failed. He elected to reposition the helicopter on the aerodrome to facilitate further examination. Upon becoming airborne, control of the helicopter was lost and it collided with the runway and, shortly after, there was a fire. The pilot managed to exit the helicopter; however, the instructor and passenger were fatally injured.
Examination of the wreckage identified that a bolt securing part of the flight control system had detached. Although the circumstances of the accident are still under investigation, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has, in the interest of transport safety, issued a Safety Advisory Notice suggesting that operators of hydraulic system-equipped R44 helicopters, and organisations performing inspection, testing, maintenance and repair activities on the flight controls of those helicopters, inspect and confirm the security of the aircraft's hydraulic-boost servos.