Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with water involving Robinson R44, VH-SCM, Talbot Bay, Western Australia, on 23 April 2017

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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On 23 April 2017, the pilot of a Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter, registered VH-SCM, conducted a short local charter flight from a helicopter landing site (HLS) on top of a boat at Talbot Bay, Western Australia. The pilot dropped off three passengers and then returned the helicopter alone to the boat. The pilot then remained seated in the helicopter, with the engine running, while two new passengers embarked. The helicopter’s doors had been removed previously.

At about 0940 Western Standard Time, the helicopter lifted off from the boat rooftop HLS. The pilot conducted a descent from the HLS, which was about 20 ft above the water, to about 5 ft above the water and applied forward cyclic  so the helicopter would accelerate.

As the helicopter’s airspeed approached about 50 to 60 kt, the low rotor RPM warning horn sounded. The helicopter started to yaw to the left and the pilot applied right pedal to correct the yaw. About 1 second later, the front of the helicopter skids collided with the water and the helicopter rolled over into the water.

The pilot and two passengers released their seatbelts and exited the helicopter underwater, but sustained minor injuries. After they exited the helicopter they inflated their lifejackets and swam about 50 m to shore.

According to the FAA rotorcraft handbook, pilots should avoid the low altitude, high airspeed portion of the height-velocity diagram, because their ‘recognition of an engine failure will most likely coincide with, or shortly occur after, ground contact. Even if you detect an engine failure, there may not be sufficient time to rotate the helicopter from a nose low, high airspeed attitude to one suitable for slowing, then landing.’


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin Issue 61

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General details
Date: 23 April 2017   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 9:40 WST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Talbot Bay (ALA)    
State: Western Australia   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 27 July 2017   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Serious  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R44 II  
Aircraft registration VH-SCM  
Serial number 11157  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Talbot Bay, WA  
Destination Pullman Creek, WA  
Last update 14 November 2018