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Final Report

Summary

At about 1500 Eastern Standard Time on 6 April 2017, a Robinson Helicopter R44 II, registered VH‑MQE, departed from Melanie Camp landing area, Queensland. The pilot and three passengers were on board the scenic charter flight.

After about half an hour into the scenic flight, the pilot commenced a large orbit around a lake that was located about 15 km NE of Melanie Camp. They turned downwind at about 550 ft above ground level, with an airspeed of about 65 knots and the main rotor RPM was about 101 per cent. About 15 seconds later, the main rotor low RPM horn sounded through the pilots headset. The pilot observed the main rotor low RPM warning light illuminated and a rapid decrease in main rotor speed. The pilot advanced the engine throttle and lowered the collective but felt that this made little difference with no increase in main rotor speed even though full engine power was applied. Shortly afterwards, the pilot initiated an autorotation and prepared to land on a beach.

As the helicopter approached the landing spot, the pilot arrested the helicopter’s rate of descent and the skids contacted the sand in a run on landing. After about 3 m the left skid dug into soft sand, which resulted in a dynamic roll over. The helicopter came to rest on the left side. The pilot and three passengers exited the helicopter through the right forward and aft exits. There were no injuries and the helicopter was substantially damaged.

The noise-cancelling headset worn by the pilot may have masked changes in the ‘normal’ sounds of the helicopter. CASA Airworthiness Article 1-43 Noise Isolating Headsets highlights that noise attenuating and noise-cancelling headsets can in some circumstances reduce the effectiveness of aural cues, such as abnormal noises, which might give some warning of unusual operations.

 

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 62

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