Due to multiple factors, the design of the rear left sliding door (emergency exit) on the EC120B helicopter was not simple and obvious to use unless the occupant was provided with specific instructions about how to operate the exit. In particular:
- the door required three actions to open (pull handle up, push door out, slide door back), and the second action was not indicated in either the design of the handle or the placard next to the handle
- the design of the inside handle was such that its purpose may not have been readily apparent to many users.
Response by Airbus Helicopters
As already indicated in the report, Airbus Helicopters advised that it believes the operation of the rear left sliding door was ‘simple and obvious’ and it did not consider that the design of the door was a safety issue. It also advised that, as in the case for a seatbelt, the description of the door operation is part of, and the responsibility of, the pre-flight briefing.
Comment by the ATSB
The ATSB acknowledges that the helicopter manufacturer has a different opinion regarding this safety issue, and in ongoing correspondence with the ATSB has reiterated its view that the rear left sliding door is simple and obvious to use. For reasons already outlined in the report, the ATSB disagrees.
The ATSB understands that over 700 EC120B helicopters were manufactured, and that many of these would still be used in passenger transport operations (as well as additional EC130B4 helicopters with a similar door). The ATSB also acknowledges that modifying the door or handle design after manufacture would be difficult (although ultimately the best solution); however, it also recognises that there are other options available to reduce the risk of the safety issue, such as modifying the placards and/or providing safety information to operators. Accordingly, the ATSB considers that it is appropriate to issue the following recommendation.