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On 17 December 2016, at about 0855 Eastern Daylight-savings Time (EDT), a Robinson R44 II helicopter, registered VH-SJK, departed Sydney Airport, New South Wales (NSW), on a private flight to Kangaroo Valley, NSW. On board the helicopter were the pilot and three passengers.

The helicopter departed Sydney Airport and was flown at 500 ft over water to Cape Banks, on the north shore of Botany Bay, and then turned south to fly a coastal route over the water outside controlled airspace. About 16 km south of Sydney Airport, while the helicopter was about 200–300 m offshore and climbing through 650 ft, the pilot heard the warning horn for low rotor RPM activate.

The pilot immediately turned right towards land (coastal cliffs). As soon as the helicopter was over land, the pilot identified a landing site, raised the collective to test the rotor RPM response, and noting a decay in RPM, they lowered the collective to enter autorotation. The pilot landed the helicopter at their chosen landing site at about 0910. A mobile phone was used to call rescue services. There were no injuries and the helicopter was substantially damaged.

The pilot reported that their lesson learned following this emergency was the importance of training and professional development. Although they only used their helicopter for private flights, they trained for a commercial helicopter licence to improve their knowledge and skill in handling their helicopter. They did not believe they could have flown a successful emergency landing without their previous recurrent proficiency training in practice autorotations.

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 59

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General details
Date: 17 December 2016 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 09:20 ESuT  
Location   (show map):16 km S of Sydney Airport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: New South Wales Occurrence type: Engine failure or malfunction 
Release date: 27 April 2017 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Robinson Helicopter Co 
Aircraft model: R44 II 
Aircraft registration: VH-SJK 
Serial number: 12174 
Type of operation: Private 
Sector: Piston 
Damage to aircraft: Substantial 
Departure point:Sydney Airport, NSW
Destination:Kangaroo Valley, NSW
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Last update 27 April 2017