Aviation safety investigations & reports

In-flight fire - Robinson R44 helicopter, VH-HBA, 80 km from McArthur River Mine Airport, NT, 12 September 2011

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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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.

Download Final report
[Download  PDF: 4.43MB]
General details
Date: 12 September 2011   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0815 CST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 80 km from McArthur River Mine Airport    
State: Northern Territory   Occurrence type: Fire  
Release date: 14 March 2012   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

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  
Last update 14 November 2018