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ATSB unable to pinpoint primary cause of Squirrel accident

written by australianaviation.com.au | September 8, 2013
VH-RDU

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has completed its final report into the accident of a Eurocopter AS350BA in Queensland on September 8 2011, stating the reason for the loss of control that resulted two fatalities could “not be positively established”.

The aircraft, VH-RDU of Heli Charters, with a pilot and two passengers on board, crashed while approaching a landing site located on a peak of Double Mountain South in the Shoalwater Bay military training area near Rockhampton.

The ATSB said that while nearing the hover at the landing site, the aircraft started to rotate left, the pilot unable to control the rotation resulting in the helicopter descending into the trees before colliding in an inverted attitude with the ground. The pilot and front seat passenger were fatally injured and the rear seat passenger received serious injuries. The helicopter was substantially damaged and there was no fire.

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The ATSB found that the pilot lost control at low speed or while hovering, most likely to have resulted from environmental and operational factors. In its investigation the ATSB said it was unable to determine “whether authorisation of pilot tasking in this case had complied with the operator’s procedures”.

“The assignment of the pilot to the task did not directly contribute to the accident. However, had a formalised and documented risk assessment of the task been prepared and considered as part of the authorisation process, as prescribed by the operator’s safety management system, it is likely there would have been a greater awareness of the suitability or otherwise of the pilot for the tasking.”

The ATSB said the landing site was potentially hazardous for a pilot unfamiliar with its characteristics and not current with the difficulties likely to be encountered with pinnacle and confined landing sites.

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