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