Aviation safety investigations & reports

Tail rotor strike of slung load involving a Eurocopter AS 350, VH-NPS, at Glenbrook, NSW on 19 December 2015

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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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   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Richmond Airport, SW 26 km    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Miscellaneous - Other  
Release date: 13 April 2016   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

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  
Last update 14 November 2018