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On 12 September 2011, a Robinson Helicopter Co. R44 Astro helicopter, registered VH-HBA, departed Heartbreak Hotel, Northern Territory, for a local scenic flight with one pilot and three passengers onboard.

The pilot conducted a thorough safety brief prior to departure. Shortly after takeoff, and at about 1,500 ft above ground level, the engine fire warning light illuminated. The pilot commenced a descent to carry out a precautionary landing. Shortly before touchdown the engine oil pressure light illuminated and the pilot observed a rapid loss of oil pressure. 

After landing, the pilot observed flames originating from under the engine cowling at the rear of the helicopter. All three passengers evacuated the helicopter. The helicopter was subsequently destroyed due to fire.

An engineering inspection could not determine the cause of the fire.

This incident highlights the importance of thorough pre-flight safety briefs. The brief assisted the passengers in being able to exit the helicopter quickly. The pilot also commented that emergency equipment stored under the seat was difficult to access in a fire. Future consideration would be given to placing this equipment in a more accessible location.

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[ Download PDF: 4.43MB]
General details
Date: 12 September 2011 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0815 CST  
Location   (show map):80 km from McArthur River Mine Airport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Northern Territory Occurrence type: Fire 
Release date: 14 March 2012 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Robinson Helicopter Co 
Aircraft model: R44 
Aircraft registration: VH-HBA 
Serial number: 696 
Type of operation: Charter 
Sector: Helicopter 
Damage to aircraft: Serious 
Departure point:Cape Crawford, NT
Destination:Cape Crawford, NT
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Last update 01 March 2016