Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loss of control - Robinson R44 helicopter, VH-ETT, 4 km south-east of Kilmore, VIC, 30 April 2011

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 225KB]
Alternate: [Download  DOC: 284KB]

On 30 April 2011, the owner-pilot of a Robinson Helicopter Co. R44 helicopter, registered VH-ETT, was conducting a local flight from a private property located near Kilmore Gap, Victoria. During low-level manoeuvring at low speed around a dam, the pilot lost directional control and landed heavily in the water. The helicopter was seriously damaged; the pilot and passenger sustained minor injuries.

The investigation found that the helicopter was probably serviceable and that the loss of directional control was likely to be a result of a loss of tail rotor effectiveness.

The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) activated on impact and prompted an effective search and rescue (SAR) response through a broadcast on the 121.5 MHz frequency. However, the 406 MHz transmission that was monitored by the SAR agency did not trigger an alert or provide identification information. As a result, there was no assurance of an immediate and effective response from the SAR agency.

The investigation found that the ELT could be programmed with identification information either directly or (if fitted) by input from a component (dongle) in the ELT wiring connector. In this occurrence, the ELT had been inadvertently reprogrammed with incorrect information from the dongle.

A minor safety issue was identified in that there were only subtle cues to distinguish programmable dongles from the standard-type wiring connector. There was also variability in the conduct of post-installation ELT testing.

In response, on 6 June 2011, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) published Airworthiness Bulletin 25-018 to alert maintenance organisations to the risk of programming dongles transferring potentially invalid details to the memory of ELTs. CASA advised that an article in Flight Safety Australia would also highlight the issue.

The helicopter manufacturer advised that they were introducing measures to increase awareness of programming dongles in their new helicopters.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 225KB]
Alternate: [Download  DOC: 284KB]


To download, click the link, then right-click and select Save As.

Copyright in material obtained from other agencies, private individuals or organisations, belongs to those agencies, individuals or organisations and should be credited accordingly.

Safety Issue

Go to AO-2011-055-SI-01 -

Emergency Locator Transmitter re-programming risk

There were only subtle cues to the fitment of programming dongles and no requirement to test Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) programming after installation, increasing the risk of inadvertent and undetected ELT re-programming and a less effective search and rescue response.
Safety issue details
Issue number: AO-2011-055-SI-01
Status: Adequately addressed
General details
Date: 30 April 2011   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1305 EST   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 4 km south-east of Kilmore    
State: Victoria   Occurrence type: Loss of control  
Release date: 08 August 2011   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Minor  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R44  
Aircraft registration VH-ETT  
Serial number 1946  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Serious  
Departure point Moorabin,VIC  
Last update 03 April 2020