On 23 February 2014, a Hughes 269C helicopter, registered VH-HAK, was parked on a property about 55 km north-east of Launceston, Tasmania, beside a dam. The pilot had shut the helicopter down in that position about a week earlier, aware that it was low on fuel.

At about 0700 Eastern Daylight-savings Time (EDT), the pilot prepared for a short 200 m flight to reposition the helicopter to the other side of the dam, for refuelling. He conducted fuel drains, with no contaminants found.

The helicopter took off and climbed to about 20 ft above ground level. When about three quarters of the way across the dam, the engine stopped due to fuel exhaustion. The pilot conducted a forced landing onto the edge of the dam, with part of the helicopter sinking into the water and mud. The main rotor blades collided with the embankment resulting in substantial damage.

While experience and familiarity with operations are invaluable, they can also lead to complacency. It is therefore important that pilots with experience, familiarity and comfort with the aircraft and location, continue to do all checks thoroughly.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 29