On 14 September 2014, the pilot of a Bell 206 helicopter, registered VH-FHX, conducted a charter flight from Myra mine camp, Northern Territory with 3 passengers on board. After arriving overhead a specified location, the pilot conducted an orbit at about 500 ft above ground level (AGL) to assess the area for a suitable landing site. The pilot then conducted a second orbit at about 100 ft AGL and noted the hazards including a tree stump to the left of the target landing area and a tall tree to the right.
The pilot then conducted an approach and a vertical descent into the selected landing site. When at about 1 ft AGL, a passenger alerted the pilot to the tree stump on the left. The pilot immediately manoeuvred the helicopter up and to the right, resulting in the helicopter striking a tree.
The pilot conducted a climb away from the site, an orbit and a second approach to land. After landing, the pilot shut down the helicopter and conducted an external inspection. The pilot assessed the damage to be minor and unlikely to affect the safety of the flight. After completing the charter flight and returning to Jabiru, the pilot inspected the helicopter and found the damage to the main rotor blade had worsened significantly. An engineer subsequently determined that the main rotor blade and tail rotor blade had sustained substantial damage and required replacement.
This incident highlights the challenges of operating in confined areas and the risks posed by distractions. It is also a reminder to ensure an aircraft is fully serviceable prior to flight, particularly following an incident.