Weather, disorientation blamed for fatal Sydney helo crash

Bad weather and pilot disorientation likely led to the fatal July 2011 crash of a Bell 206L outside Sydney. (Bell Helicopters)

Disorientation amid poor weather has been blamed for the fatal helicopter crash that killed a Sydney businessman and his pilot in July 2011.

A mechanical failure had initially been suspected as the cause of the crash after witnesses reported seeing parts of the helicopter’s tail section flying loose moments before it went down in bushland in the Sydney suburb of South Turramurra on July 22 last year.

But an ATSB investigation found that the helicopter’s main rotor struck and severed the tail boom, likely after the pilot become disoriented amid heavy clouds and rain and lost his sense of which way was up. This likely led to “inappropriate control inputs, the main rotor blades striking the tail boom and loss of control,” the ATSB said.

The helicopter had ascended from 700 to 1,300 ft in the moments before the crash, the report said.

Businessman Bruce Campbell, 65, and pilot Col Greenwood, 35, were killed. Mr Campbell, who owned the helicopter, was on his way from his property in Rosehill to the Sydney Adventist Hospital near South Turramurra for a medical appointment.

According to the investigation, other pilots who had flown for Mr Campbell said he had a “strong expectation that flight would be continued in meteorological conditions that the pilots’ considered as marginal.” Mr Campbell had been advised to drive to the hospital that morning but was “insistent that the helicopter flight go ahead as planned,” the ATSB said.