Aviation safety investigations & reports

Forced landing involving Robinson R44, VH-SJK, 16 km S of Sydney Airport, NSW, on 17 December 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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On 17 December 2016, at about 0855 Eastern Daylight-savings Time (EDT), a Robinson R44 II helicopter, registered VH-SJK, departed Sydney Airport, New South Wales (NSW), on a private flight to Kangaroo Valley, NSW. On board the helicopter were the pilot and three passengers.

The helicopter departed Sydney Airport and was flown at 500 ft over water to Cape Banks, on the north shore of Botany Bay, and then turned south to fly a coastal route over the water outside controlled airspace. About 16 km south of Sydney Airport, while the helicopter was about 200–300 m offshore and climbing through 650 ft, the pilot heard the warning horn for low rotor RPM activate.

The pilot immediately turned right towards land (coastal cliffs). As soon as the helicopter was over land, the pilot identified a landing site, raised the collective to test the rotor RPM response, and noting a decay in RPM, they lowered the collective to enter autorotation. The pilot landed the helicopter at their chosen landing site at about 0910. A mobile phone was used to call rescue services. There were no injuries and the helicopter was substantially damaged.

The pilot reported that their lesson learned following this emergency was the importance of training and professional development. Although they only used their helicopter for private flights, they trained for a commercial helicopter licence to improve their knowledge and skill in handling their helicopter. They did not believe they could have flown a successful emergency landing without their previous recurrent proficiency training in practice autorotations.

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 59

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General details
Date: 17 December 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 09:20 ESuT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 16 km S of Sydney Airport    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Engine failure or malfunction  
Release date: 27 April 2017   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R44 II  
Aircraft registration VH-SJK  
Serial number 12174  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Sydney Airport, NSW  
Destination Kangaroo Valley, NSW  
Last update 14 November 2018