Early on the morning of 23 June 2015, the pilot prepared the Robinson R22 helicopter, VH-RBT for a private flight with one passenger from a property near Boyup Brook to Jandakot, Western Australia.

Although the area forecast indicated fog to the west of Boyup Brook ALA, some 6 km away, the general area and intended flight path were completely clear. The pilot reported it was a cold clear morning with a frost and some fog present in a valley 200-300 m down the slope from the take-off area.

The pilot completed preparations while waiting for first light. After lift-off, the pilot established the helicopter into a hover about 2-3 ft above the ground, and conducted a pedal turn prior to moving forward. Due to the down-sloping terrain, the helicopter was already about 15 ft above the ground soon after lift-off. As the pilot began to raise the collective, and with their attention momentarily inside the cockpit, the windscreen almost instantaneously fogged over. The pilot described this instant lack of external reference, as like being in a ‘white room’.

Despite attempts to bring the helicopter back safely onto the ground, the pilot unexpectantly felt the tail and skid strike the ground quite heavily. The pilot continued to work to regain control of the helicopter, but it fell onto its left side.

The passenger sustained minor injuries but the pilot was uninjured. The helicopter was substantially damaged.

The operator had removed the cabin heater at the start of summer, and it had not been re-installed. The ATSB was unable to determine if this fogging would have occurred, had the heater been installed and operated.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin Issue 44

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