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Final Report

Summary

Early in the afternoon on 7 November 2015, a Robinson R44 helicopter, registered VH‑HOQ (HOQ), was conducting pilot training on the western end of Redcliffe aerodrome, Queensland. At the same time, a de Havilland DH‑82A (Tiger Moth), registered VH‑BJE (BJE), was taxiing for departure on runway 07. Both aircraft were operating under the visual flight rules, and the weather conditions were fine and clear.

While BJE was taxiing for Runway 07, HOQ moved to the grassed area just north of the taxiway to practise engine failures while taxiing. HOQ did not advise the change in operating area on the CTAF to other aircraft because the helicopter operations were going to remain clear of the runway.

The pilot of BJE broadcast their intentions to taxi and enter the runway to other aircraft in the area on the Redcliffe common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). While taxiing, the pilot of BJE noted the position of the helicopter and saw that is was well clear.

The pilot of BJE lined up for departure on the grass beside the runway, because the aircraft was fitted with a tail skid, not a tail wheel. BJE commenced the take-off run and, shortly after, the pilot noticed HOQ flying on a parallel track to BJE. The helicopter was to the right, slightly ahead and above BJE, and in close proximity.

Shortly after becoming airborne from the grass runway, the pilot of BJE saw the helicopter commence a left turn towards the runway. Thinking that there was going to be a collision, BJE took avoiding action by conducting a hard left turn at low altitude.

HOQ was executing a reversal turn in order to reposition the helicopter for further training. The turn would keep the helicopter outside the runway strip. However, as HOQ had not advised their intentions on the CTAF, the pilot of BJE was unaware that the helicopter was going to remain clear.

Pilots are encouraged to ‘err on the side of caution’ when considering when to make broadcasts on CTAF – particularly when the aircraft operations are likely to be in close proximity to other aircraft.

The ATSB SafetyWatch programme highlights broad safety concerns that emerge from investigations and occurrence data reported to the ATSB by industry. One safety concern relates to operations around non-controlled aerodromes. The ATSB safety watch website page, Safety around non-controlled aerodromes, includes the following relevant comments:

  • Insufficient communication between pilots operating in the same area is the most common cause of safety incidents near non-controlled aerodromes.
  • A search for other traffic is eight times more effective when a radio is used in combination with a visual lookout than when no radio is used.

The CASA booklet titled Operations at non-controlled aerodromes provides guidance with respect to the limitations of the see-and-avoid principle and relevant radio procedures. Civil Aviation Advisory Publication 166-1 also provides relevant guidance with respect to CTAF procedures.

 

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 47

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