Sunday, August 05, 2018

Robinson R44, VH-HGX: Accident occurred January 17, 2018 in Ayers Rock, Australia

Main rotor speed decay and forced landing involving Robinson R44, VH-HGX, 5 km S Ayers Rock Airport, Northern Territory, on January 17, 2018.

Factual information

On 17 January 2018, at about 1821 Central Standard Time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, registered VH-HGX, departed from the Yulara Town helipad, Northern Territory, for a 15-minute scenic flight with one pilot and three passengers on board. This was the third scenic flight for the pilot in VH-HGX since the last refuel that afternoon. Shortly after take-off, and while flying over trees, the helicopter’s engine speed and main rotor speed began to decay. The low rotor speed warning horn activated. In response, the pilot advanced the throttle, but was unable to recover the rotor speed, which continued to decay. About 30 seconds after departing, the pilot broadcast a MAYDAY call and conducted an emergency landing. The pilot in the front right seat and passenger in the rear right seat sustained serious injuries in the landing. The two passengers seated in the front and rear left seats sustained minor injuries. The helicopter was substantially damaged.

Video footage review

A rear seat passenger provided video footage for the first 17 seconds of the flight. A review of that footage found that:

The engine speed and rotor speed decayed simultaneously.

The low rotor speed warning horn activated at about 22.5 inches manifold pressure at a height of about 30 ft and airspeed of about 26 kt. At this time, both airspeed and power were increasing.

About 3–4 seconds after the warning horn activated, engine power reached about 24 inches manifold pressure.

About 12 seconds after the warning horn activated, the engine power can be seen at 25–26 inches manifold pressure. At this time, the helicopter had an airspeed of about 33 kt and about 80 per cent engine and rotor speed (matched).

Helicopter performance

Ayers Rock Airport is at 1,626 ft elevation. At 1830, the airport weather data recorded a temperature of 38 °C, QNH 1007[5] and wind of 9 kt from 080°. According to the Robinson R44 pilot operating handbook the maximum continuous power limit was about 24.2 inches manifold pressure. A further 1.6 inches manifold pressure can be added to maximum continuous power for a 5 minute maximum take-off power of about 25.8 inches manifold pressure for the environmental conditions at the time of the accident.

Maintenance and inspections

A scheduled 100-hourly inspection was completed on the helicopter on 15 January 2018. Following the accident, an independent inspection and test of the right magneto and associated wiring was conducted by the insurance surveyor (the signal source for the throttle governor is the engine right magneto secondary points). The right magneto secondary points were about 1/1000th of an inch below the lower limit, but otherwise no fault was found and the magneto tested serviceable to a multi-meter check. No fault was found with the associated wiring.

Ongoing investigation

The ATSB will continue to work with the helicopter operator, insurance surveyor and manufacturer (via the accredited representative) for possible further inspection and testing of the governor control unit.

NTSB Identification: WPR18WA159
14 CFR Unknown
Accident occurred Wednesday, January 17, 2018 in Ayers Rock, Australia
Aircraft: ROBINSON R44, registration:
Injuries: 2 Serious, 2 Minor.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On January 17, 2018, at 1800 local time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, VH-HGX, experienced a partial loss of engine power shortly after takeoff. The pilot subsequently initiated an autorotation, landed hard and rolled over near Ayres Rock, Australia. The pilot and one passenger were seriously injured. Two passengers received minor injuries. The helicopter was substantially damaged. The helicopter was being operated under the pertinent civil regulations for the government of Australia.

The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Government of Australia. This report is for information purposes only and contains only information released by the Government of Australia. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)
P.O. Box 967, Civic Square
Canberra A.C.T. 2608
Tel: +612 6274 6054
Fax: +612 6274 6434

A helicopter conducting a sunset tour of Uluru rolled down a sand dune after the pilot made an emergency landing when the aircraft lost power, the flight operator has said.

The pilot is being treated for spinal injuries at Royal Adelaide Hospital and a 32-year-old male passenger has been transferred there today with suspected spinal damage.

Two other passengers on board the aircraft were also taken to hospital with less serious injuries after Wednesday's accident.

Tour company Professional Helicopter Services (PHS), said the helicopter had taken three passengers on a scenic flight of the area when it got into difficulty shortly after take-off from Yulara at 6:00pm.

"It is unclear at this early stage exactly what caused the incident," a statement read.

"However, it appears that after suffering a loss of power, the pilot conducted an emergency landing onto a sand dune.

"Despite his best efforts, unfortunately the helicopter then slipped down the dune, finishing on its side."

A second PHS helicopter was involved in the rescue effort, the company said.

The pilot, along with three PHS employees, provided first response assistance to those injured, before ferrying emergency service crews to the site.

A 42-year-old female passenger remains in Alice Springs Hospital with a broken ankle and other suspected fractures, alongside a 35-year-old man who is being treated for cuts and bruises.

NT Police said the helicopter went down at 6.30pm, about 1.5 kilometres west of the tourist hub.

"Shortly after take-off, the pilot radioed through that he was experiencing difficulties and as a consequence of that, the chopper came down," Superintendent Jody Nobbs said.

"Police, fire and medical personal swiftly attended the scene with the assistance of a second chopper in the area."

Superintendent Nobbs said two of the occupants on board were trapped in the aircraft when Yulara police arrived on the scene.

"On police arrival, we located two persons who had already self-extricated from the chopper," he said.

"And [we] were required with medical assistance to treat, and support and assist the two remaining passengers who were within the chopper to extricate from the chopper."

The crash site was in a remote area, inaccessible by road so local Yulara medical staff assisted until the Royal Flying Doctor Service arrived about 10:30pm.

"Our local team worked closely with authorities to secure their rescue in difficult terrain and we are very proud of the way they handled what was a difficult and distressing situation," Professional Helicopter Services said.

"The tourist operating community here is a tight-knit one and we are all in shock at what has occurred."

The company has temporarily suspended its flights out of Yulara.

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