Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loss of control involving Robinson R44 helicopter, VH-WOH, 20 km south-west of Mudgee, NSW on 9 December 2012

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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What happened

On 9 December 2012, the pilot of a Robinson R44 Raven I helicopter, registered VH-WOH, was conducting aerial spraying activities on a property near Mudgee, New South Wales. Following the completion of a number of spray runs, the helicopter failed to return to the refilling station, and a search was commenced. The helicopter was found about 450 m up a hill from the refilling station, having collided steeply with terrain. The pilot was fatally injured.

What the ATSB found

Analysis of the recovered global positioning system data identified that immediately before the accident the helicopter was climbing up a hill when the speed decreased below about 10 kt (19 km/h). The ATSB found that at the time of the accident the helicopter was over its maximum allowable weight, was too heavy to hover out-of-ground effect and as the speed decreased, the power required exceeded that available from the engine resulting in a probable reduction in main rotor RPM (overpitch) and a descent. The time between this point and the first contact with a tree was insufficient for the pilot to complete a recovery action. The ATSB also found that the spray system on the helicopter had not been installed by an approved aircraft maintenance engineer.

Safety message

This accident highlights the dangers of operating helicopters overweight, especially when performance is critical, such as when low flying or conducting aerial spraying operations. The use of manufacturer’s performance data will assist pilots in avoiding the circumstances associated with this accident.

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General details
Date: 09 December 2012   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0947 ESuT   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 20 km south-west of Mudgee    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Loss of control  
Release date: 26 September 2013   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R44  
Aircraft registration VH-WOH  
Serial number 1807  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Last update 03 April 2020