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On 20 March 2015, at about 1140 Eastern Standard Time, a Robinson R22 helicopter, registered VH‑HUA, departed from Stanbroke Station for a private flight to Devoncourt Station, Queensland. On board were a pilot and one passenger. The main fuel tank was filled to capacity prior to departure, with 68 L of fuel. While en route between the two stations, the pilot was assessing the water available for stock by overflying water holdings.

At about midday, while about 500 ft above ground level, the helicopter approached a gorge. To assess the water quantity in the gorge, the pilot conducted a descent to about 100 ft and slowed the helicopter to a hover. As the pilot shifted his focus outside, the rotor revolutions per minute (rpm) decreased, the low rotor rpm warning horn sounded and the helicopter commenced descending. The pilot immediately lowered the collective and turned the helicopter away from the higher gorge walls in an attempt to increase forward speed and rotor rpm. He was unable to regain sufficient rotor rpm and the helicopter continued to descend.

The right skid landed heavily on uneven ground, followed by the left skid. The main rotor then collided with a rock and the helicopter rolled onto its right side. The pilot and passengers exited the helicopter and were not injured. The helicopter sustained substantial damage.

The temperature at the time was 42°C and the elevation of the area was about 1,000 ft above mean sea level. This incident provides a reminder of the effect on helicopter performance of density altitude, weight, and wind. Pilots are encouraged to carefully and accurately assess these factors to ensure that an adequate performance margin is maintained.

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 41


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General details
Date: 20 March 2015 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 1100 EST  
Location   (show map):93 km SE of Mount Isa Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland Occurrence type: Collision with terrain 
Release date: 10 June 2015 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Robinson Helicopter Co 
Aircraft model: R22 BETA 
Aircraft registration: VH-HUA 
Serial number: 3973 
Type of operation: Private 
Sector: Helicopter 
Damage to aircraft: Substantial 
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Last update 17 October 2017