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Final Report

Summary

On 12 November 2015, a pilot was mustering cattle in a Robinson R22 helicopter, registered VH-HWJ, at a property about 90 km south of McArthur River Mine, Northern Territory.

At about 1400 Central Standard Time, as the helicopter approached the cattle yards, it descended rapidly and collided with a tree and terrain. The helicopter landed on its side and sustained substantial damage. The accident occurred about 200 m prior to the cattle yards. The pilot sustained serious injuries and was unable to recall the sequence of events.

The yoke connecting the clutch shaft to the rearward flex plate was found to have fractured at the connection to the shaft. The ATSB conducted analysis to determine whether the yoke failure may have contributed to the accident, or occurred as a result. The analysis found no evidence of fatigue damage in the yoke, and no other signs of pre-existing damage. The helical fracture was consistent with torsional overstress inducing failure in the yoke.

The ATSB was unable to determine the cause of the accident.

US military research analysed helicopter accidents that were at least partially survivable. It found that occupants not wearing a protective helmet were significantly more likely to sustain severe and fatal head injuries. The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also acknowledged that the use of head protection can reduce the risk of injury and death. The NTSB issued Safety Recommendation A-88-009, recommending that crew members of emergency medical services helicopters wear protective equipment including helmets.

 

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 48

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