Aviation safety investigations & reports

Near collision involving an unmanned aerial vehicle and a Bell 412, VH-WSR, near Newcastle Westpac Base (HLS), NSW on 22 March 2014

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 22 March 2014, at about 2200 Eastern Daylight-savings Time, a Bell 412 helicopter, registered VH-WSR, lifted off from John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle for a flight of about 2 NM to the Newcastle Westpac helipad, New South Wales, with five crew members on board.

The pilot broadcast his intentions on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) and did not receive a response. Heading to the north-east and on climb to 1,200 ft above ground level (AGL), the pilot observed a steady white light that initially appeared to be an aircraft in the vicinity of Williamtown Airport, about 10 NM away. After reaching 1,200 ft AGL, the pilot commenced a descent towards the helipad.

The light appeared to cross very quickly from the pilot’s left to right and the helicopter crew realised that it was actually about overhead the Hunter Stadium in Newcastle. It then made an abrupt turn to the left of about 30-40 degrees and commenced tracking to the south-east away from the helicopter. The pilot again broadcast on the CTAF and again received no response.

About 10 to 15 seconds later, he observed the light make an abrupt right turn and track towards the helicopter. The rate and radius of the turn indicated to the pilot that it was not an aircraft and was more likely to be a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). 

As the helicopter descended through about 1,000 ft AGL and banked to the left, the pilot observed the UAV about 100 m away and at about the same level as the helicopter. The pilot then commenced a turn to the right and observed the UAV hovering in position just above the helicopter. The pilot continued the turn through 360 degrees and landed at the helipad.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 30

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 133KB]
General details
Date: 22 March 2014   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 22:08 ESuT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Newcastle Westpac Base (HLS)    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Interference from the ground  
Release date: 26 May 2014   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft 1 details

Aircraft 1 details
Aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model 412EP  
Aircraft registration VH-WSR  
Serial number 36233  
Type of operation Medical Transport  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point John Hunter Hospital, NSW  
Destination Newcastle Westpac Base, NSW  

Aircraft 2 details

Aircraft 2 details
Sector Remotely piloted aircraft  
Last update 14 November 2018