On 22 February 2014, the pilot of a Robinson R44 helicopter, registered VH-UGR, was conducting aerial agricultural operations on a property near Yass, New South Wales.

After successfully completing five loads of spraying, the helicopter was refuelled and reloaded with chemical for the next flight. The wind at the time was light and variable but favouring a southerly direction and the pilot manoeuvred the helicopter to take off towards the south. During the take-off, when at about 3 ft above ground level (AGL), the pilot reported that the helicopter was not climbing as expected and he thought that the wind had veered to a more westerly direction.

He commenced a right pedal turn towards the west, and down the slope, in an attempt to gain translational lift. The pilot reported that the wind had actually turned more easterly, and the helicopter therefore had a tailwind.

The low rotor revolutions per minute (RRPM) warning horn sounded and the pilot jettisoned the chemical load. The helicopter was then about 5 ft AGL, and the pilot was attempting to gain lift, and concentrating on keeping the helicopter straight in order to keep the landing skids level. He sighted a dry creek bed ahead and attempted to gain altitude prior to crossing it.

The helicopter was about 40-50 m beyond where the load had been jettisoned, and the pilot was focused on gaining lift, when the left skid contacted the ground, and the helicopter rolled over.

This incident highlights the importance of assessing options in case of reduced aircraft performance on take-off.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 29