Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loss of control and collision with terrain involving EC130 helicopter, VH-YHS, 19 km south-south-east of Mansfield, Victoria, on 19 January 2019

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final Report

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What happened

On the morning of 19 January 2019, a Eurocopter EC130 helicopter, registered VH-YHS, conducted a private flight from Moorabbin Airport to an authorised landing area (ALA) near Mansfield, Victoria with the pilot and two passengers on board. A return flight to Moorabbin was planned for later that afternoon.

At about 1500 (Australian Eastern Daylight Time - AEDT), the pilot and passengers boarded the helicopter at the ALA for the return flight. The pilot prepared for take-off and lifted off the helicopter more rapidly than he normally did. As the helicopter became airborne, it began to rotate counter-clockwise (yaw to the left). The pilot tried to control the yaw but the helicopter quickly turned through 360° and, unable to control it, he made a decision to land the helicopter.

The left skid of the descending helicopter subsequently contacted the ground, resulting in a rolling movement that led to the main rotor blades striking the ground. The collision destroyed the aircraft, the pilot sustained minor injuries however the passengers were uninjured.

What the ATSB found

The investigation did not identify any airworthiness issues with the helicopter and it was considered that the loss of control was not attributable to a mechanical issue. It was also determined that the prevailing light winds did not contribute to the loss of control.

The pilot reported that he did not lift the helicopter into a balanced hover, and tried controlling its yaw mainly with the cyclic control instead of through the full application of opposing right, tail rotor pedal. Management of unanticipated yaw in helicopters with shrouded tail rotors (Fenestron) is the subject of the manufacturer’s guidance and learnings from similar accidents.

Safety message

This accident demonstrates the criticality of helicopter pilots understanding the aircraft’s characteristics so that they can anticipate its response when becoming airborne, and are not surprised by events. Controlling yaw in helicopters with a Fenestron tail rotor, as in this case, is an important consideration. Airbus Helicopters and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) provide specific guidance relating to this issue to assist pilots.

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 355KB]

The occurrence

General details
Date: 19 January 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 15:05 EDT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): ALA 19 km SSE Mansfield   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: Victoria   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 29 May 2020   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Eurocopter  
Aircraft model EC130  
Aircraft registration VH-YHS  
Serial number 4080  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Authorised landing area 19 km SSE of Mansfield, Victoria  
Destination Moorabbin Airport, Victoria  
Last update 29 May 2020