Aviation safety investigations & reports

Power loss involving a Robinson R44, VH-ZON, 11 km NNE Arkaroola (ALA), SA, 15 July 2013

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 15 July 2013, at about 1500 Central Standard Time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, registered VH-ZON (ZON), departed from the helipad at Arkaroola, South Australia on a short scenic flight. On board were the pilot and two passengers.

During the return leg, when only a few minutes from the helipad, the pilot heard a loud noise from the rear of the helicopter. The helicopter yawed to right and began to descend. The helicopter did not respond to the pilot’s attempt to correct the yaw, so he conducted an autorotation onto a suitable area in the rugged terrain. The helicopter touched down on the rocky ridge and sustained substantial damage. The pilot and passengers did not sustain any injury.

An engineering report found the left magneto had failed. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is aware of the existing problem with Teledyne Continental Motors and Champion Aerospace (Slick) magnetos. A search of the CASA Service Difficulty Report (SDR) database over the 24 months to June 2013 revealed nearly 45 per cent of ignition failures were attributed to magneto failures.

This accident also highlights the importance of thorough pre-flight safety briefs as conducted by the pilot in this situation. The ATSB safety research and analysis report B2004/0238, Public Attitudes,Perceptions and Behaviours towards Cabin Safety Communications, stated that when safety briefs are thoroughly and professionally delivered, the changes of survival for passengers increase.


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 23

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[Download  PDF: 436KB]
Alternate: [Download  DOCX: 770KB]


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General details
Date: 15 July 2013   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1510 CST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 11 km NNE Arkaroola (ALA)    
State: South Australia   Occurrence type: Engine failure or malfunction  
Release date: 31 October 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-ZON  
Serial number 179  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Arkaroola, SA  
Destination Arkaroola, SA  
Last update 20 November 2018