Aviation safety investigations & reports

Ditching involving Robinson R44, VH-CYH, 83 km N of Horn Island Airport, Qld, 9 June 2012

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 9 June 2012, a Robinson R44 helicopter, registered VH-CYH, departed Thursday Island to Dauan Island, Queensland, on a charter passenger flight. During the flight, the alternator light illuminated on two separate occasions, each time it was reset.

When at Dauan Island, the pilot attempted to start the engine for the return ferry flight, without success. After consultation with the operator, external batteries were used to start the helicopter.

About 10 minutes after departing, the alternator light illuminated and was again reset. This happened again several times in quick succession before the pilot then isolated all non-essential electrical systems. The pilot elected to fly to Moa Island because he had passed the point of no return to Dauan Island.

About 10 minutes later, the engine governor failed, the pilot switched the governor off. As a precaution, the pilot descended the helicopter to 500 ft above the water.

Over the next 10 minutes, the pilot adjusted the throttle manually to manage the engine and rotor RPM which would stabilize for a few minutes and then indicate a reduction. This was coupled with a gradually increasing vibration and grinding noise. At about 300 ft above the water, the pilot deployed the emergency ‘pop-out’ floats. The pilot was concerned about the increase in engine noise and vibration and elected to descend and commence a hover taxi. Soon after, the throttle was not able to be adjusted further and he elected to ditch the helicopter.

The pilot contacted the helicopter operator, who initiated a search and rescue operation by contacting the Rescue and Coordination Centre Australia. At about 1845, a search and rescue helicopter arrived and transported the pilot to Horn Island. The pilot was uninjured.

The accident highlights the importance of wearing a life jacket equipped with flares and a PLB among other safety items; a nominated realistic SARTIME; a thorough knowledge of an aircraft’s systems; and the benefits of helicopter underwater escape training.


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin – Issue 15

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 208KB]
Alternate: [Download  DOC: 3.97MB]
General details
Date: 09 June 2012   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1725 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Horn Island Airport    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Ditching  
Release date: 27 February 2013   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-CYH  
Serial number 10077  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Serious  
Departure point Dauan Island, Qld  
Destination Horn Island Qld  
Last update 14 November 2018