Aviation occurrence briefs

Collision with terrain involving a Robinson R44 II, Parachilna, SA, on 12 September 2019

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 12 September 2019, a Robinson R44 II helicopter landed at Parachilna, South Australia to unload passengers after conducting a scenic flight in the Wilpena Pound area. The landing area was a raised disused railway platform that the pilot had used previously as it allowed the tail rotor to be maintained well clear of any possible obstacles.

At approximately 1540 Central Standard Time, after the passengers were unloaded and had moved away from the helicopter, the pilot commenced the lift into the hover. As the helicopter became light on the skids, the helicopter‘s nose pitched up and it began to roll to the left. The tail rotor impacted the ground and the main rotor struck the tail boom (Figure 1 Insert A).

After securing the helicopter, the pilot determined that a section of steel on the edge of the platform had dislodged and caught on the rear of the left hand skid (Figure 1 Insert B). This resulted in the unanticipated pitch and roll during the take-off sequence.

Figure 1: Accident site showing aircraft and platform

Accident site showing aircraft and platform

Source: Aircraft operator

Safety action

As a result of this occurrence, the aircraft operator advised the ATSB that they ceased operations to the landing site. The operator advised that operations may recommence in the location after the necessary maintenance has been completed on the platform and a site inspection is carried out to confirm the suitability and safety for future operations. They will also ensure that periodic inspections are performed at any helicopter landing sites to ensure ongoing safe operations.

Safety message

The assessment of suitability and safety of helicopter landing sites does not end after the initial reconnaissance or even after operating from the site for a period of time. Pilots must be aware of all potential hazards to operations, particularly in the critical phases of flight such as lifting to the hover, taxiing and commencing take-off.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.

General details
Date: 12 September 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1540 CST    
Location   (show map): Parachilna, SA    
State: South Australia    
Release Date: 14 October 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R44 II  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Last update 14 October 2019