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On 19 December 2015, the pilot of a Eurocopter AS 350 helicopter, registered VH-NPS, was conducting fire control work near Glenbrook, New South Wales, with one crewperson on board. The fire control work included use of a Bambi Bucket to drop water on the fires, slung under the helicopter by a 100 ft long-line.

Shortly before 1830 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, the pilot elected to land the helicopter at Glenbrook helipad to refuel. The helicopter landed with the bucket and line in front of the helicopter, and the fuel drum to the right of the helicopter. The pilot realised that the helicopter’s fuel cap was on the left side and therefore needed to turn the helicopter around to access the fuel drum.

The crewperson exited, stood in front of the helicopter, and took hold of the long-line to ensure it remained clear during the turn. The pilot then lifted the helicopter to about 2 ft above ground level. The crewperson used hand signals to direct the pilot to conduct a right turn, walking to stay in front of the helicopter and remain in the pilot’s sight. After the helicopter had turned around, the crewperson gave the signal to lower the helicopter, which the pilot followed. As the helicopter lowered down, the tail rotor struck the bucket, which was on the ground behind the helicopter. The pilot detected the strike as a vibration through the pedals, and immediately moved the helicopter forward slightly, lowered the collective, and landed.

The tail rotor was damaged; the pilot and crewperson were uninjured.

Careful risk assessment is particularly important where a non-standard manoeuvre is planned. Effective crew communication is vital to ensure that potential hazards are clearly identified and understood, and the associated risks are appropriately managed.        


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 47

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General details
Date: 19 December 2015 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 18:30 ESuT  
Location   (show map):Richmond Airport, SW 26 km Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: New South Wales Occurrence type: Miscellaneous - Other 
Release date: 13 April 2016 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Serious Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Eurocopter 
Aircraft model: AS.350B3 
Aircraft registration: VH-NPS 
Serial number: 3239 
Type of operation: Aerial Work 
Sector: Helicopter 
Damage to aircraft: Minor 
Departure point:Warragamba Dam, NSW
Destination:Glenbrook, NSW
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Last update 17 June 2016