Final Report


On 22 April 2016, an instructor and student were conducting flight training in a Robinson R22 helicopter, registered VH-MFH (MFH), at Ballina Byron Gateway (Ballina) Airport, New South Wales (NSW).

On the same morning, the pilot of a Lancair aeroplane, registered VH-XCG (XCG), was conducting a private flight under the instrument flight rules (IFR), from Wedderburn Airport, NSW, to Ballina Airport, with one passenger on board.

At about 1006 Eastern Standard Time, the instructor of MFH broadcast on the Ballina common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) that they were established on runway 24 and would be conducting low-level operations on the runway for the next 15 minutes. 

At about the same time, XCG was approaching Ballina via an area navigation (RNAV) approach to runway 24. The pilot reported that their attention was focused on the newly installed electronic instrumentation and associated navigation system. When the aircraft was descending through about 500 ft on final approach, the pilot sighted a helicopter (MFH) ahead on the runway threshold, and realised they had omitted to select the CTAF and to broadcast an inbound call.

At about 1012, MFH was stationary on the threshold of runway 24, facing along the runway to the south-west. The instructor of MFH communicated with the pilot of another helicopter operating at the aerodrome to arrange mutual separation. Soon after, the pilot of the other helicopter broadcast ‘the plane coming in on runway 24, your intentions?’ There was no response to this transmission.

That call alerted the instructor of MFH to the aeroplane approaching runway 24 (XCG). The instructor looked out of the helicopter door, and sighted XCG, which was behind them on final approach to runway 24, and estimated the aircraft to be about 200 to 500 m away. The instructor immediately took control of the helicopter from the student and vacated the runway to the grassed area north of the runway.

After initially sighting MFH on the runway, the pilot of XCG considered conducting a go-around, but then observed MFH lift off and move to the grass area north of the runway. The pilot of XCG elected to continue the approach, and landed on runway 24.

Insufficient communication between pilots operating in the same area is the most common cause of safety incidents near non-controlled aerodromes.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 51

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