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