Pilots leaving the controls of the helicopter
Date issue released
Safety Issue Description

It was common practice for the operator’s pilots to leave the controls of their helicopter, while the rotors were turning and the friction locks applied, to escort passengers to and from the helicopter.

Issue number
Issue Status
Closed – Partially addressed
Transport Function
Aviation: Air transport
Issue Owner
Whitsunday Air Services
Mode of Transport
Issue Status Justification

The ATSB notes that the operator has now specified that control friction locks are not considered a suitable means of locking a control. The ATSB also notes that, according to the operator’s procedure, pilots should not be leaving the controls of a helicopter, with rotors turning, unless the helicopter was pointed into wind and the wind strength was less than 15 kt. Nevertheless, the ATSB is still concerned that the operator’s procedures will allow pilot to leave the controls of a helicopter to escort passengers, even though CASA has advised that is not a suitable reason for doing so. 

Proactive action
Action number
Whitsunday Air Services
Action date
Action Status
Action description

In January 2019, the operator provided a revised operations manual. The manual still allowed pilots to leave the controls of a helicopter to escort passengers to and from a helicopter, under the same conditions as previously. However, an additional note in the manual was included, which stated:

Control frictions do not meet the requirement of a control lock.

In February 2021, the operator advised that it did not consider this aspect to be related to the accident, and it did not provide any further safety action.