Friday, November 23, 2018

Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane, N173AC: Accident occurred January 28, 2019 in Mount Eliza, Australia

Erickson Inc

NTSB Identification: WPR19WA147
14 CFR Part 129: Foreign Erickson Inc
Accident occurred Monday, January 28, 2019 in Mount Eliza, Australia
Aircraft: Sikorsky S64, registration: N173AC
Injuries: 3 Minor.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On January 28, 2019, at 1956 local time, a Sikorsky S-64E, N173AC, sustained substantial damage after colliding into a pond near Mount Eliza, Australia. The pilot and two crewmembers were not injured.

The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Government of Australia. This report is for information purposes 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.: (61) 2 6230-4408 (24/7 Notifications)
(61) 2 6257-4150 (International liaison) (Notifications) (International liaison)
Fax: (61) 2 6274-6434 (Notifications)
(61) 26247-3117 (International liaison)

The company operating a firefighting helicopter that crashed into a dam in eastern Victoria says the aircraft was "performing normally" moments before the accident.

Two pilots and one engineer were on board the Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane when it crashed into a dam at Jericho, in remote Gippsland, just after 7:00pm Monday.

The three men managed to swim to the edge of the dam.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the chopper "landed heavily" and the crew was flown to the Latrobe Valley Hospital for treatment.

"They were examined for some minor injuries and shock, as you'd imagine, but I believe they've been released from hospital now," he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

He said the cause of the crash was not yet clear.

The Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane helicopter is one of the largest water-bombing aircraft in the world, and Victoria contracts two Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane as part of its firefighting fleet.

Five similar Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane — in NSW, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria — were grounded while the crash was investigated.

Kestrel Aviation managing director Ray Cronin, whose company manages the fleet, said the ground was a "precautionary measure" while the company interviewed the crew and determined a probable cause.

He said after an initial investigation, the company and authorities had agreed that the grounding of the Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane fleet would be lifted.

"The Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane will return to service almost immediately," Mr Cronin said.

"The crews are with the aircraft ready to rejoin the fire fight in Victoria."

He said while he did not want to pre-empt the outcome of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's (ATSB) investigation, he understood "the serviceability of the Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane" was good at the time of the crash.

"[I'm] absolutely confident in the rotorcraft — they're a workhorse, they're a very reliable aircraft."

The Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane was refilling its water at the time, Forest Fire Management Victoria deputy fire officer Darrin McKenzie said.

"So they're actually quite close to water at that point. They have a snorkel which drops down into the water. They haven't fallen a great distance before they impacted with the water," Mr McKenzie said.

He said it was a "hazardous operating environment".

"This dam is surrounded by trees, and surrounded by hills. But it is quite rare that we have an event like this," he said.

"So they have to be really careful about what the wind conditions are, any downdrafts. So wind and visibility are the key things they need to think about from a safety view."

Work will begin in the next few days to try and work out how to get the Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane out of the water.

With a water-holding capacity of up to 9,000 litres, the Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane is popular with firefighting agencies around the world, CFA incident controller Mike Owen said.

"They're renowned across the world for their large firefighting capability and they operate in the USA, Canada, Australia, Greece, France and there's a fleet of about 20 of these worldwide at any time operating across firefighting," he told ABC Radio Gippsland.

"So very specialist equipment, very reliable, and Erickson are a well-known, well-respected company that operates them."

Each Sikorsky S-64E Skycrane is worth about $30 million, which Mr Owen said indicated the "sophistication" and "reliability" of the aircraft.

"It's very, very unusual to have an incident like this," he said.

The helicopter was one of 10 water bombers being used to contain the Thomson Catchment Complex fires, which are burning just north of Mount Baw Baw.

Mr Owen said the fires were in a rugged area, making it difficult to get equipment into the area.

"There are three fires that are in the catchment … and together they're about 700 to 800 hectares at the moment," he said.

"[Monday] was the start of a concerted effort to use lots of aircraft bombing it, trying to create lines and assisting firefighters on the ground when we can get them in."

Premier Daniel Andrews said the crash was "a really serious incident" and said any lessons learnt during the investigation would be taken on board.

"We're very pleased obviously that nobody was seriously injured. It could've been a very different outcome," he said.

WorkSafe has been notified of the crash.

A Victorian water bombing helicopter has crashed into a dam while working to battle fires in a remote area of Victoria’s east.

The aircraft plunged into the dam in Jericho about three hours east of Melbourne about 7.15pm yesterday.

The three crew members – two pilots and an engineer – all safely escaped the aircraft and swam to the edge of the Thomson Dam, which is located next to Mount Gregory.

The was assisting a firefight, water-bombing the Thompson Complex Catchment fires which are burning across more than 1300 hectares of land in Gippsland.

The exact reason behind the crash landing of the $30 million aircraft is still unknown, but there are unconfirmed reports the aircraft may have flipped while attempting to scoop up a load of water.

The HELItack 341 known as Christine is one of 10 aircrafts fighting the Thompson fires and one of only two aircranes in Victoria.

Ambulance Victoria authorities were dispatched to the area to assess the crew members but no one was injured.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau and Worksafe have been notified and an investigation is under way.

“Over the past several days, the aircraft had been involved in fire suppression activities at the Thomson Catchment Complex fires,” The State Control Centre said in a statement.

“The Aircrane was one of ten aircraft working on the fire.

“Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said that he was grateful that the crew are safe.”

There are currently 49 water fighting helicopters operating in Victoria.

It is the first bushfire where night-time water bombing has taken place, however it was still light when this incident occurred.

1 comment:

  1. This particular Aircrane is currently being rebuilt at the main Erickson facility in Central Point, Oregon and is expected to be flying again sometime in 2020.