The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is investigating a collision with terrain accident involving a Robinson R22 helicopter 70 km WNW of Hay, New South Wales, on 26 May 2021.
During aerial agricultural operations, the helicopter collided with terrain. The helicopter sustained substantial damage and the pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured.
As part of the investigation the ATSB will examine the wreckage, analyse any available recorded data, review pilot and maintenance records, and interview involved parties.
A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation.
Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate safety action can be taken.
This preliminary report details factual information established in the investigation’s early evidence collection phase, and has been prepared to provide timely information to the industry and public. Preliminary reports contain no analysis or findings, which will be detailed in the investigation’s final report. The information contained in this preliminary report is released in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.
On 26 May 2021, the pilot of a Robinson R22 Beta helicopter, registered VH-KLY (KLY) and operated by Stock & Station Aviation, was conducting mustering operations on a property 75 km west‑north-west of Hay, New South Wales (Figure 1). The pilot was the only person on board.
Source: Google maps annotated by the ATSB
At about 1150 Eastern Standard Time, the pilot was moving a small group of cattle along a fence line to yards, where they were to be loaded on to a truck and removed from the property. The pilot flew ahead of the cattle to open the gates to the yard, with witnesses observing the helicopter as it passed their house. The pilot landed and exited the helicopter, then opened the first gate at the entrance to the yards (Figure 2).
A short time later, a witness at the house heard the helicopter take-off and, very soon after, heard a loud bang. Suspecting that the helicopter had crashed, they drove to the yards and found the helicopter on its side. First aid was rendered to the pilot however, they sustained fatal injuries. The helicopter was substantially damaged.
Analysis of recorded flight data indicated KLY took off from the landing site at the first gate and flew in a southerly direction toward the yards at between 20–30 ft (6–9 m) above ground level (AGL) and up to 27 kt (Figure 3). The track then turned slightly towards a gate which was required to be opened to allow the cattle through. This gate is adjacent to the accident site.
Source: Google Earth, annotated by the ATSB
All of the major aircraft components were accounted for at the site. Examination of the aircraft’s flight controls, engine and aircraft structure did not identify any pre‑existing defects. However, there was evidence of wire strike marks on the front of the helicopter’s left skid (Figure 4).
A single wire earth return (SWER) line runs across the yard (Figure 3). This line runs from a power pole adjacent to the yards to a pole approximately 351 m away. The wire is attached to the power pole closest to the yards at 34 ft (10 m) AGL and the minimum height of the wire as it spans between power poles is 24 ft (7 m) AGL. The helicopter came to rest about 27 m from the wire.
The investigation is continuing and will include examination of:
- aircraft maintenance documentation and operational records
- recorded data
- weather information
- wire visibility
- accident survivability
- pilot qualifications and experience.
Should any safety critical information be discovered at any time during the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify operators and regulators so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken.
A final report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation.
|Date:||26 May 2021||Investigation status:||Active|
|Time:||12:09 EST||Investigation level:||Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels|
|Location:||75 km west north west of Hay, New South Wales||Investigation phase:||Final report: Internal review|
|State:||New South Wales||Occurrence type:||Collision with terrain|
|Release date:||09 July 2021||Occurrence category:||Accident|
|Report status:||Preliminary||Highest injury level:||Fatal|
|Anticipated completion:||2nd Quarter 2022|
|Aircraft manufacturer||Robinson Helicopter Co|
|Aircraft model||R22 BETA|
|Operator||Stock and Station Aviation Pty. Ltd.|
|Type of operation||Aerial Work|
|Damage to aircraft||Substantial|