Aviation safety investigations & reports

: Total power loss involving a Bell 206B, VH-NDL, 92 km NE of Finke (ALA), Northern Territory, 12 November 2013

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 12 November 2013, a Bell 206B helicopter registered VH-NDL, departed a camp site located 51 NM SE Alice Springs, Northern Territory on a charter flight with the pilot and three passengers on board, in visual meteorological conditions. About an hour into the flight and 2 NM from the landing area the pilot commenced a slow descent from 2,000 feet above the ground (AGL). When lowering the collective, the pilot heard an intermittent grinding noise above the cockpit. The pilot checked the gauges, with nothing unusual noted. The noise continued to develop and the pilot elected to land. As the helicopter descended through 400 feet (AGL), a clunking noise was heard and power was lost to the main rotor. The pilot initiated an auto rotation and briefed the passengers for an emergency landing. During the touched down at about 0705, the main rotor blade severed the tail boom. The pilot secured the helicopter, waited for the main rotor to slow and assisted the passengers to exit the helicopter. The helicopter sustained substantial damage; the occupants received nil injuries.

ATSB examination of main drive shaft found that the forward outer coupling had failed, in overload, into five segments. The surfaces of the segments had evidence of discolouration due to over temperature and most of the surfaces had turned into red oxide (which forms in air at high temperatures, estimated to be over 500 °C). There was no detected grease that is needed for lubrication to reduce friction (heat) between and the rotating parts. Without the grease, the gear teeth on the forward inner spherical coupling softened, deformed, fractured and became jammed, resulting in the forward outer coupling shattering into the five segments. The four Temp-Plate indicators (which indicate when there has been excess temperature) were not present on the forward outer coupling exterior. There were no detected remnants of the forward rubber boot that is part of the seal assembly for containment of the grease.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 32

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General details
Date: 12 November 2013   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0705 CST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 92 km NE of Finke (ALA)    
State: Northern Territory   Occurrence type: Engine failure or malfunction  
Release date: 14 July 2014   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model 206  
Aircraft registration VH-NDL  
Serial number 2710  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point near Finke, NT  
Destination near Finke, NT  
Last update 14 November 2018