The ATSBs final investigation report into the fatal crash of an R44 Helicopter west of the Gunpowder airstrip in Queensland on 21 February 2006 found that the operation of the helicopter at weights that did not allow for adequate performance in the high temperatures experienced in the area may have contributed to the development of the accident.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau report states that the helicopter, with a pilot and three passengers on board was engaged in aerial survey operations between the Mt Gordon and Mt Kelly mines in northern Queensland. It was reported overdue at a scheduled stop and was located the following day, burnt out on the top of a hill. All four persons on board had received fatal injuries.

The helicopter had impacted the ground with significant force, with the main rotor displaying evidence of low rotational energy. Other than impact and fire damage, there were no identified mechanical defects or abnormalities found with the helicopter.

At the estimated helicopter weight and the prevailing atmospheric conditions, the helicopter did not have the performance to hover at the survey altitude, which was estimated to be about 1,000 ft above ground level.

The investigation found that the helicopter was also being operated at gross weights that exceeded the specified maximum take-off weight. In addition, the operators procedures did not provide a high level of assurance that a relatively low time pilot could conduct aerial survey operations safely.

While the ATSB could not conclusively determine the factors leading to the accident, as a result of this investigation, the helicopter manufacturer has commenced a revision of safety information that it provides to pilots highlighting the dangers of operations at low level in high temperatures.

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the ATSBs internet site

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Last update 01 April 2011