Aviation safety investigations & reports

Wirestrike and collision with terrain involving Robinson R44, VH-KCH, near Mansfield, Victoria, on 6 July 2019

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final Report

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 370KB]

What happened

On 6 July 2019, the pilot of a Robinson Helicopter Company R44 helicopter, registered VH-KCH, was conducting a private flight from a property near Mansfield, Victoria, with one passenger on board. Shortly after take-off, the helicopter struck a powerline and subsequently collided with terrain resulting in serious injuries to the passenger and minor injuries to the pilot.

What the ATSB found

The pilot obtained some information from the landowner about powerlines on the property from where the helicopter took off, and a neighbouring property. However, he did not identify the presence of powerlines during the flight planning process and he did not see the wires or the associated poles during the shallow departure. The wires were strung across a valley with a span of 560 m, which the helicopter struck 158 ft above the ground. The wire did not have aircraft warning markers and did not require marking in accordance with Australian Standard 3891.

The ATSB also identified that, unlike other states of Australia, electricity network information was not readily available in Victoria to aid pilots during the flight planning process.

Safety message

The ability of pilots to detect powerlines depends on physical characteristics such as the spacing of power poles, the orientation of the wire, and the effect of weather conditions. Depending on the environmental conditions, powerlines may not be contrasted against the surrounding environment. In addition, the size of the wire and limitations of the eye can mean that it is actually impossible to see the wire.

Robinson Helicopter Company Safety Notice SN-16, Power lines are deadly, included advising helicopter pilots to:

  • watch for power poles and fly directly over them when crossing powerlines
  • constantly scan the terrain on either side of your flight path for poles/towers
  • always maintain at least 500 feet above ground level except during take-off and landing.

The Aerial Application Association of Australia Powerline Safety Program aims to encourage and facilitate power companies to improve aviation safety. The program involves the provision of mapping information of powerline networks and the marking of powerlines by network operators wherever it is requested by a pilot, aviation company or landholder.

In summary, effective wire avoidance can be achieved using a combination of:

  • available wire location information
  • wire marking
  • avoidance of unnecessary low flying, especially flight below the height of surrounding higher terrain where wire spans may be present.
Download final report
[Download  PDF: 370KB]

The occurrence

General details
Date: 06 July 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1506 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Mansfield (ALA), 11 km south   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: Victoria   Occurrence type: Wirestrike  
Release date: 28 November 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Serious  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R44  
Aircraft registration VH-KCH  
Serial number 1548  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point near Mansfield, Victoria  
Destination Moorabbin Airport, Victoria  
Last update 28 April 2020