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.