Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loss of control involving a Robinson R44 helicopter, VH-ZWA, at Darwin Airport, NT on 7 October 2015

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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Late in the afternoon on 7 October 2015, a pilot prepared the Robinson R44 helicopter, VH-ZWA for a solo training flight. The local flight from Darwin Airport, Northern Territory was to consolidate the pilot’s knowledge of the local area. Earlier in the day, the chief pilot had conducted an acceptance flight with the pilot in ZWA.

During the engine start, the helicopter began to yaw to the left. The pilot quickly checked that the pedals were neutral and put some ‘weight’ on the collective to confirm that it was fully down.

However, the helicopter continued to yaw left rapidly through about 90°. The pilot applied full right pedal, but the helicopter did not respond and continued the yaw through about 180°, before falling onto its right side. The pilot sustained minor injuries and the helicopter was substantially damaged.

The pilot’s most recent helicopter experience was on a MD 520N helicopter, which is fitted with a No Tail Rotor (NOTAR) system and requires very little pilot input on the pedals.

Also, the operator acknowledged that the new pilot had low total flying hours and low time on the R44 helicopter. In hindsight, the company realised that the pilot required even more dual time prior to being authorised for any solo practice. As a result of this occurrence, they have made an amendment to the operations manual in regard to pilots with under 500 hours total time and / or 30 hours in the previous 90 days. The new procedure means that new pilots who fall into this category must initially fly with a Grade 1 instructor. This flight is to assess the pilot’s practical and mental status. The Grade 1 instructor is to provide a report on the flight to the Chief Pilot prior to the new pilot undergoing company induction.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 45

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General details
Date: 07 October 2015   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1718 CST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Darwin Airport    
State: Northern Territory   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 22 December 2015   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Minor  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R44 II  
Aircraft registration VH-ZWA  
Serial number 11752  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Last update 14 November 2018