Aviation safety issues and actions

Design of the EC120B rear left emergency exit

Issue number: AO-2018-026-SI-03
Issue owner: Airbus Helicopters
Transport function: Aviation: Air transport
Background: Investigation Report AO-2018-026
Issue release date: 16 June 2021
Current issue status: Open – Safety action pending
Issue status justification:

To be advised 


Safety issue description

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.

Safety recommendation

Action number: AO-2018-026-SR-073
Action organisation: Airbus Helicopters
Date: 16 June 2021
Action status: Released

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recommends that Airbus Helicopters takes safety action to address the safety issue associated with the design of the rear left sliding door on the EC120B helicopter to ensure that, as best as possible, the door is simple and obvious to use and/or passengers are provided with sufficient instructions so that it is simple and obvious to use.

Last update 16 June 2021