On 21 October 2014, the pilot of a Eurocopter EC120B helicopter, registered VH-BGB, conducted a charter flight from a ship about 24 nautical miles north-north-west of Port Hedland to transfer two marine pilots to Port Hedland Airport, Western Australia. The flight was conducted under night visual flight rules.

At about 2240 Australian Western Standard Time, the helicopter lifted off and the pilot commenced the climb and transitioned to a forward airspeed of about 15 knots. As the helicopter passed over the bow of the ship, it encountered windshear. Approaching about 350 feet above sea level, the pilot observed the airspeed indicating about 5 knots. He reported that his focus had momentarily been on the radar altimeter and he had not detected the airspeed decaying. He immediately applied forward cyclic to increase the airspeed, then continued the climb to 1,500 feet, and proceeded to Port Hedland without further incident.

The pilot reported that in a normal climb, by about 400 feet he would expect the airspeed to be approaching 40 knots. He believed that his delay in recognising the decreasing airspeed was due to feeling unwell. He had some symptoms of a cold prior to the flight, had been on duty for about 22 hours prior to the incident, and had slept for about 2 hours during that time.

The helicopter operator issued a Safety Notice to all company pilots reminding them of the importance of managing fatigue and fitness to fly in accordance with their Fatigue Management policy.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 38