On 8 December 2009, at about 1840 Eastern Daylight-saving Time
an Aerospatiale AS.350B helicopter, registered VH-NFO (NFO), and a
Kawasaki BK117 helicopter, registered VH-LXC (LXC), were engaged in
aerial firebombing operations about 20 km south-east of Orange
Aerodrome, New South Wales (NSW). During one of the water drop
sequences, while in the vicinity of the drop point, LXC‟s main
rotor blade tip(s) contacted the trailing edge of NFO‟s vertical
fin. There was light damage to NFO and there were no injuries,
although the outcome could have been more serious.
There were no published procedures for pilots to follow to ensure separation from other aircraft when there was no air attack supervisor present. Instead, the system relied on the airmanship and experience of pilots to mutually arrange separation. In this case, the water source was about 600 m from the fire front and NFO had departed the water source shortly before LXC. The investigation established that neither pilot was aware of the position of the other helicopter as they approached the drop point.
In response to the occurrence, the NSW Rural Fire Service developed a series of mission management standard operating procedures, including the use of standard terminology for aerial firefighting activities. These were to be introduced to contracted and other operators via a series of workshops commencing in November 2010.
After being approached by a number of firefighting authorities, in July 2009 the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) commenced a Firefighting Review. In November 2009, a Firefighting Operations Manual project team was established including five CASA staff, one fire authority staff member, 11 industry representatives and one consultant to draft a proposed manual. The aim was for the manual to standardise aerial firefighting procedures across the authorities. At the time of release of this report, the draft manual had been distributed to the various fire authorities for their review.
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Preliminary report released 11 March 2010
On 8 December 2009 at about 1840 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, an Aerospatiale AS350-B2 helicopter, registered VH-NFO (NFO), and a Kawasaki BK117 helicopter, registered VH-LXC (LXC), were engaged in aerial firebombing operations about 20 km south-east of Orange Airport, New South Wales. The pilots were the only occupants of their respective helicopters. After the pilot of NFO had landed to refuel, he noticed damage to the trailing edge of the helicopter's vertical fin. In addition, the plastic navigation light cover on top of the vertical fin was broken. The pilot reported the damage to the pilot of LXC. Examination of LXC did not reveal any apparent damage. There were no injuries.
There were no published communications procedures or phraseology that should before used by pilots during firebombing operations to provide separation assurance at fire locations when there was no air attack supervisor present.
|Who it affects:||All pilots conducting firebombing operations|
|Date:||08 December 2009||Investigation status:||Completed|
|Time:||1900 ESuT||Investigation level:||Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels|
|Location:||20 km SE of Orange|
|State:||New South Wales||Occurrence type:||Airborne collision|
|Release date:||29 November 2010||Occurrence category:||Serious Incident|
|Report status:||Final||Highest injury level:||None|
|Anticipated completion:||4th Quarter 2010|
Aircraft 1 details
|Aircraft manufacturer||Aerospatiale Industries|
|Type of operation||Aerial Work|
|Damage to aircraft||Minor|
Aircraft 2 details
|Aircraft manufacturer||Kawasaki Heavy Industries|
|Type of operation||Aerial Work|
|Damage to aircraft||Nil|
|Departure point||Bathurst, NSW|
|Destination||Macquarie Woods, NSW|