On 26 August 2011, the pilot of an MD Helicopter Inc. 369D helicopter, registered YJ‑HEL, was conducting sling load operations near a small village 183 km north‑north‑west of Port Vila, Vanuatu. As the helicopter approached the village, with two passengers onboard, witnesses heard a single, loud bang and watched the helicopter fall 10 to 15 m to the ground before coming to rest on its right side. One of the passengers received minor injuries and was able to exit the helicopter unaided. The other passenger received serious injuries and the pilot was fatally injured.
What the ATSB found
The ATSB found that as the helicopter approached the village to land, the wire rope attached to the helicopter’s cargo hook contacted a tree. That contact resulted in the rope fouling on the main rotor blades, which in turn led to the detachment of segments of the rotor blades and the tail boom. This rendered the helicopter uncontrollable. It was also found that the occupants of the helicopter were not wearing the installed shoulder harness restraints or using flight helmets during the flight.
What has been done as a result
This investigation was conducted by the ATSB at the request of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu and no organisational or systemic issues that might adversely affect the future of aviation operations in Vanuatu were identified.
The circumstances of this accident serve as a reminder that the severity of contact injuries in survivable helicopter accidents can be significantly reduced by the use of shoulder harnesses and protective flight helmets. As such, pilots and operators should consider the use of such equipment in the interest of enhancing survivability should an accident occur.
|Date:||26 August 2011||Investigation status:||Completed|
|Time:||1525 VUT or 0425 UTC||Investigation level:||Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels|
|Location:||Unua village, Malekula, Vanuatu|
|State:||International||Occurrence type:||Collision with terrain|
|Release date:||02 October 2012||Occurrence category:||Accident|
|Report status:||Final||Highest injury level:||Fatal|
|Aircraft manufacturer||McDonnell Douglas Corp.|
|Type of operation||Aerial Work|
|Damage to aircraft||Destroyed|
|Departure point||Maleluka Island, Vanuatu|
|Destination||Maleluka Island, Vanuatu|