The instrument panels fitted to VH-ZGA and the operator's other EC135 helicopter at Port Hedland were equipped for single-pilot operation under the instrument flight rules. When used for flight training or checking in a degraded visual cueing environment, this configuration has a detrimental effect on the ability of an instructor or training/check pilot to monitor the helicopter's flight path and take over control if required.
The ATSB is satisfied that the proactive safety action taken by the operator and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority appropriately addresses this issue.
The operator advised that its procedures for conducting training and checking flights in degraded visual cueing environments have been amended. Those procedures now require flight instruments for the instructor/training/check pilot seating position. No training is undertaken in VH‑ZGZ by day or night due to the instrumentation layout.
CASA advised the ATSB that the guidance material regarding equipment requirements in Civil Aviation Safety Regulation (CASR) 91 and CASR 138 have been clarified as follows:
Cockpits designed specifically for single pilot operations need to be carefully assessed for adequacy of instrument visibility, interpretation and useability when being considered for use in training (including line training) and checking or testing operations, particularly in degraded visual cue operational situations.
Operators who operate these aircraft should conduct a risk assessment and if necessary in-flight assessment of the readability of analogue or EFIS [electronic flight information system] based attitude and performance instrumentation critical for flight path management before considering such operations.
In many cases training, check or PICUS [pilot in command under supervision] flights may need to be limited to VFR with the availability of an adequate visual cue environment, to avoid the potential for hazardous flight path management issues arising.
Any risk assessment and/or flight assessment must ensure all information presented by the attitude and performance instrument package in the aircraft (including EFIS trend lines or indicators) is able to be utilised by the training or check pilot or flight examiner operating from the non-command seat for flight path monitoring.