On 20 August 2014, the pilot of a Robinson R66 helicopter, registered VH-JRX, conducted a site inspection from a vehicle prior to commencing aerial spraying near Giru, Queensland. The pilot identified powerlines running along the eastern, southern and northern boundaries of the paddock to be sprayed. He then conducted a flight over the paddock and assessed the hazards in the area and confirmed he was able to see all of the powerlines he had identified from the ground.

At about 1500 Eastern Standard Time (EST), the pilot commenced aerial spraying in an east-west direction. At the end of each run, the pilot climbed the helicopter up and over the powerlines, turned then descended once clear of the powerlines and sprayed the paddock in the opposite direction.

At about 1645, the pilot commenced the final clean-up run. The helicopter was operating along the southern boundary of the paddock, parallel to the powerlines running along the southern and northern borders. The pilot was aware of those powerlines, however when about 5 m from the eastern boundary, he sighted the powerlines running perpendicular to the direction of flight. The pilot assessed that it was too late to climb over the powerlines and elected to fly underneath them and to ensure the helicopter remained above the crop.

The main rotor blade hub struck the powerlines and the helicopter collided with the ground. The helicopter was substantially damaged and the pilot sustained minor injuries.

This incident provides a reminder to pilots to conduct an aerial reconnaissance to confirm wire locations and other hazards.

Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 35