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On 6 April 2017, the operators of a Yamaha RMAX remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) were conducting aerial spraying about 23 km west of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. One operator was acting as the remote pilot in command of the RMAX and the other was mixing chemical, ferrying it to the aircraft and loading it into the chemical tanks, or canisters, on the aircraft.

The aircraft had been operating normally that day for about 1 hour and 15 minutes of flight time. At about 1400 Eastern Standard Time, the aircraft was about 2 to 3 m above the ground returning to land, when the pilot and loader heard a ‘clunk’. The aircraft started yawing to the left and descending. The pilot selected opposite direction yaw input, but the aircraft did not respond. The aircraft collided with terrain upright but in a nose-down attitude and then rolled onto its side, resulting in substantial damage.

Subsequent inspection revealed that the tail rotor had separated from the aircraft and landed about 30 m from the rest of the aircraft.

The ATSB found that the tail rotor drive shaft probably failed due to an existing fracture, resulting in the aircraft colliding with terrain.

This accident highlights the importance of reporting all incidents and accidents, particularly to ensure adequate inspection and maintenance is conducted before returning the aircraft to operations.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin Issue 61

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General details
Date: 06 April 2017 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 13:00 EST  
Location   (show map):Stony Creek Reserve, 23 km W of Canberra Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Australian Capital Territory Occurrence type: Collision with terrain 
Release date: 27 July 2017 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Yamaha 
Aircraft model: R Max 
Aircraft registration: N/A 
Type of operation: Aerial Work 
Sector: Remotely piloted aircraft 
Damage to aircraft: Substantial 
Departure point:Stoney Creek Reserve, ACT
Destination:Stoney Creek Reserve, ACT
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Last update 14 November 2018