On 16 December 2013, the pilot of a Robinson R44 helicopter, registered VH-HJT, had completed a full day of aerial agricultural work, after which he reported feeling dehydrated and tired from the time pressures involved with the operation. He then attended a briefing for the next day’s operations, which involved aerial spraying of weeds on three properties. The briefing specified the areas to be sprayed; however, no maps or detailed information regarding the operation was provided to the pilot.

The next day, due to a series of delays, operations commenced at about 0800 Eastern Daylight savings Time. At that time, the pilot reported feeling time pressured and frustrated at the inadequacy of the preparations.

After completing five loads of spraying, the pilot elected to land the helicopter to discuss the remaining areas to be sprayed with the land owner. He was reminded of a rocky gully with blackberries that needed to be sprayed, which was away from the area he had been working on earlier. He did not recall that gully being mentioned at the briefing and he was not alerted to the existence of any power lines. The pilot then overflew the gully and did not observe any power lines or power poles.

The pilot then commenced spraying the gully, which required looking out of the helicopter window and door towards the ground. He then sighted power lines just as the helicopter main rotor disc struck the wires. The pilot immediately conducted a precautionary landing. The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the main rotor blades and the pilot was uninjured. The strike also resulted in the 22,000 volt power lines detaching from a number of insulators.


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin Issue - 27