Aviation safety investigations & reports

Wirestrike and collision with terrain involving a Robinson R44, VH-HXY, near Townsville, Queensland, on 14 February 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 14 February 2016, the pilot of a Robinson R44 helicopter, registered VH-HXY, conducted a local private flight from a property about 90 km north of Hughenden, Queensland.

After operating for about 1 hour, the pilot landed near a water trough to check a float. During the approach and landing, the pilot sighted powerlines strung across the trough, and manoeuvred to remain clear of them.

While the helicopter was on the ground, the wind veered from a southwest to a southerly direction, so that to take off into wind, the helicopter would track perpendicular to the powerlines. After completing the pre-take-off checks, the pilot turned his attention to a mob of cattle, to ensure the noise of the helicopter would not send them through a fence.

The helicopter lifted off initially parallel to the powerlines, and the pilot then turned the helicopter to manoeuvre around a tree and climbed to about 20 ft above ground level. The tree momentarily obscured the powerlines and the pilot’s attention was on the cattle.

As the helicopter rounded the tree, at an airspeed of about 50 kt, the skids struck the powerlines. The pilot heard the wires contact the helicopter and it decelerated rapidly. The pilot lowered collective and pulled back on the cyclic, but the helicopter rolled forwards over the wires, descended rapidly, and collided with the ground passenger-side down in a nose down attitude.

The wire was hooked on the helicopter’s right skid, with power still running through it. After the blades stopped turning, the pilot exited the helicopter. The pilot was not injured and the helicopter was destroyed.

The ATSB publication Avoidable Accidents No. 2 – Wirestrikes involving known wires: A manageable aerial agricultural hazard, explains strategies to help minimise the risk of striking wires while flying.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 47

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General details
Date: 14 February 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 15:21 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Townsville Airport (Boonacarbaroo Station)    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Wirestrike  
Release date: 13 April 2016   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R44  
Aircraft registration VH-HXY  
Serial number 0350  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Boonacarbaroo Station, Qld  
Last update 14 November 2018