Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Eurocopter AS 350 BA, VH-PHU: Accident occurred July 04, 2017 in Bellarine, Victoria, Australia

A helicopter pilot's unintended topiary on touchdown at a Victorian winery sparked a safety investigation.

The pilot took a chunk out of a bush in July while landing on a tennis court at the Jack Rabbit Vineyard, with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau on Wednesday reporting he was too focused on a nearby wall to notice it.

The helicopter's main blades slashed the bush, sending offcuts flying onto nearby diners, but no one was injured.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.news.com.au




Main rotor tip strike involving Eurocopter AS350-BA, VH-PHU, 9 km WNW St. Leonards (ALA), Victoria, on July 04, 2017

Investigation number: AO-2017-074

Final report:  https://www.atsb.gov.au

What happened

On 4 July 2017, a Eurocopter AS350-BA helicopter, registered VH-PHU and operated by Professional Helicopter Services, was chartered to conduct a flight between Moorabbin Airport and the Jack Rabbit Vineyard helicopter landing site (HLS) on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria. At about 1415 Eastern Standard Time, while landing at the HLS, the tips of the helicopter’s main rotor blades struck an encroaching bush.

History of the flight

At about 1310, the pilot volunteered at short notice to conduct the charter flight to the Jack Rabbit Vineyard. As the pilot had not previously flown to this HLS (a tennis court), he discussed the landing site with another experienced company pilot. Their discussions included consulting Google earth and ascertaining the safest way in and out of the landing site. The pilot also spoke with staff at the vineyard to inform them of his planned arrival and, at their request, confirmed that he would make his approach from the north, so as not to overfly the vines.

At about 1340, the flight departed Moorabbin Airport about 40 minutes later than originally planned. With two passengers on board, the pilot flew south for a scenic coastal flight via Port Phillip Heads, to the Bellarine Peninsula. The reported weather for the flight was for visibility greater than 10 km and a northerly wind at 10-15 kt.

On arrival, the pilot recognised the features of the HLS from his pre-flight planning and conducted a north-to-south, downwind approach, which was appropriate for the conditions on the day.

During the approach, the pilot identified the key boundaries of the landing site, which included a brick wall at the southern end of the site, but he did not see a large bush that encroached into the HLS. When established in the HLS, and believing that he had to make way for another helicopter, the pilot slowly hover-taxied the helicopter forward towards the south‑west corner of the landing site. During this, the pilot reported that he remained focused on the brick wall ahead.

At about 1415, the tips of the helicopter’s main rotor blades struck the encroaching bush (now on the helicopter’s right side). The pilot initially landed the helicopter, then soon after repositioned clear of the bush.

The helicopter was subsequently shut down and secured without further incident. There were no injuries. All three of the helicopter’s main rotor blade tip caps were found damaged. The sequence of the incident was captured on a smartphone and subsequently reviewed by the ATSB.



Pilot comments

Aware of the operator’s mantra to ‘not let commercial pressures influence the way you fly’, the pilot was content to fly the charter and felt adequately prepared for the flight. However, the pilot reported that, as the HLS was easily recognisable from his pre-flight planning and due to over‑confidence, he elected to abbreviate the usual 360° reconnaissance of the site. Instead, he conducted a sweeping 270° turn about the HLS, prior to his downwind approach into the landing site. The approach to the centre of the HLS was as anticipated.

Before manoeuvring within the HLS, the pilot ensured that the area around the helicopter was free of obstacles, but acknowledged that he did not notice the bush and how far it encroached into the landing site. The pilot commented that he was focusing on the brick wall as he moved forward and had discounted the right side of the helicopter.

Final report:  https://www.atsb.gov.au

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