ATSB releases R22 wirestrike mustering accident investigation preliminary report

Skid wire strike mark

A Robinson R22 helicopter which collided with terrain while mustering showed evidence of a wirestrike, the ATSB’s preliminary report from its on-going investigation into the 26 May 2021 accident details.

The pilot, the sole occupant on board, was mustering cattle along a fence line on a property 75 km west of Hay, NSW, and had landed to open a gate at the entrance to a yard. Shortly after, a witness heard the helicopter take-off and, very soon after, a loud bang.

Suspecting an accident, the witness drove to the site and found the helicopter on its side, substantially damaged. First aid was rendered to the pilot, however they had sustained fatal injuries.

Subsequent analysis of recorded flight data by ATSB transport safety investigators indicated that after taking off after the pilot had opened the gate, the helicopter flew south towards another gate, at between 20 and 30 feet (6 to 9 metres) above ground level, and at a speed of up to 27 knots. The track then turned slightly towards the second gate which was required to be opened to allow the cattle through.

This gate was adjacent to the accident site, which was about 27 metres from a single wire earth return (SWER) powerline which ran across the yards with a minimum height between spans of 24 feet (7 metres).

Examination of the helicopter’s flight controls, engine and structure did not identify any pre-existing defects. However, there was evidence of wirestrike marks on the front of the helicopter’s left skid.

Director Transport Safety Stuart Macleod noted that the ATSB’s preliminary report does not include any safety findings or analysis, which will be detailed in the investigation’s final report.

“As the investigation progresses, the ATSB will continue to analyse recorded data, the aircraft’s maintenance documentation and operational records, weather information, and assess visibility of the powerline, accident survivability and the pilot’s qualifications and experience,” he said.

A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation.

“However, should a critical safety issue be identified at any time during the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken.”

Read the report: AO-2021-020 Wirestrike and collision with terrain, Robinson R22, VH-KLY, 75 km west-north-west Hay, New South Wales, on 26 May 2021

Last update 09 July 2021

Preliminary report

Wirestrike and collision with terrain, Robinson R22, VH-KLY, 75 km west-north-west Hay, New South Wales, on 26 May 2021