Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain involving a Eurocopter EC-120, VH-VMT, near Byron Bay NSW on 8 December 2013

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 8 December 2013, at about 1430 Eastern Daylight-savings Time, a Eurocopter EC-120B helicopter, registered VH‑VMT, departed from a property 16 km north of the Ballina/Byron Gateway Airport, New South Wales for a local flight.

At about 1555, the helicopter returned to the property from the north, overflew and approached to land on a heading of about 340º. The pilot reported that the wind was from the north, at about 20 kt.

When about 3 ft above ground level, the pilot reported that he entered the hover. Immediately after, the helicopter began to yaw left. The pilot applied right rudder pedal to counteract the yaw and reduced the engine power to idle. The helicopter continued to yaw left and the pilot applied full right rudder pedal, but was unable to arrest the rotation. The helicopter rotated left about 90° before the left skid lowered and contacted the ground. It continued to rotate around and rolled onto its right side. The helicopter was substantially damaged and the passengers were uninjured.   

The pilot believed that a combination of main rotor downwash and a wind gust contributed to a loss of tail rotor effectiveness. By maintaining an awareness of the wind and its effect on the helicopter, pilots can significantly reduce the exposure to LTE.


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 26

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General details
Date: 08 December 2013   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1618 EDT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 16 km north, Ballina/Byron Gateway Airport    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Loss of control  
Release date: 25 February 2014   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Eurocopter  
Aircraft model EC120  
Aircraft registration VH-VMT  
Serial number 1619  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Stradbroke Island, Qld  
Destination Byron Bay, NSW  
Last update 14 November 2018