Aviation safety investigations & reports

Controlled flight into water involving Robinson R22, VH-HOA, 89 km NNW of Innamincka (ALA), SA, 31 October 2012

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 31 October 2012, the pilot of a Robinson R22 helicopter, VH-HOA, was conducting mustering operations at Innamincka Station, South Australia on a hot, cloudless day.

The helicopter had been assisting ground personnel move a large mob of cattle through sandy and swampy terrain.  The pilot was tasked with flying a low-level east-west grid pattern well behind the main herd, checking for stray cattle.

The pilot’s visibility through the windscreen had deteriorated during the day, due to a build-up of dust, sand and mud. During his final run, the pilot conducted a right turn from west to east over the edge of Lake Marradibbadibba. Although wearing sunglasses, the pilot received significant sun-glare from the water. He became disoriented and did not detect a rate of descent. The helicopter contacted the water and sank. The pilot exited the helicopter without injury and swam to shore.

The effect of sun-glare when relying on visual cues has contributed to a number of accidents, and has been documented in US Federal Aviation Administration research report Sunlight and its association with aviation accidents.

Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin – Issue 15

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 177KB]
Alternate: [Download  DOC: 254KB]
General details
Date: 31 October 2012   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1525 CSuT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 89 km NNW of Innamincka (ALA)    
State: South Australia   Occurrence type: CFIT  
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 R22  
Aircraft registration VH-HOA  
Serial number 4099  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Innamincka Station, SA  
Last update 14 November 2018