On 9 December 2012 at about 1700 Eastern Standard Time, a Robinson R22 helicopter, registered VH-HTD, departed a fishing camp situated on the mouth of the Normandy River, Queensland, on a private flight. The pilot was the only person on board.
The pilot was tracking north-west along the coastline at about 600 ft above ground level (AGL) when he sighted an object in the water, about 100 m from the coast. The pilot turned the helicopter towards the object and descended to have a closer look.
As the pilot approached the object, he initiated a flare to reduce the airspeed and rate of descent. During the flare, the tail rotor contacted the water and the helicopter began to rotate to the right about the yaw axis. The pilot closed the throttle and the helicopter settled into the water and rolled over to the right. The pilot exited through the passenger door without injury and swam to shore.
Robinson Helicopter Company issued Safety Notice SN-19 in regard to the hazards of low level flight over water; particularly the lack of depth perception. Even choppy water with its constantly varying surface may interfere with normal depth perception and cause a pilot to misjudge their height above water.