A Robinson R22 Beta that crashed while mustering cattle, killing its pilot, likely struck a wire, the ATSB has said.
A preliminary report into the incident on 26 May this year near Hay, NSW, also found no pre-existing defects with the flight controls, engine and structure of the helicopter operated by Stock & Station Aviation.
“As the investigation progresses, the ATSB will continue to analyse recorded data, the aircraft’s maintenance documentation and operational records, weather information, and assess visibility of the powerline, accident survivability and the pilot’s qualifications and experience,” said the ATSB’s director of transport safety, Stuart Macleod.
The unidentified pilot, the sole occupant on board, was mustering cattle along a fence line on a property 75 kilometres west of Hay, NSW, and had landed to open a gate at the entrance to a yard. Shortly after, a witness heard the helicopter take-off and, very soon after, a loud bang.
Suspecting an accident, the witness drove to the site and found the helicopter, VH-KLY, on its side, substantially damaged. First aid was rendered to the pilot, however they had sustained fatal injuries.
Subsequent analysis of recorded flight data by ATSB transport safety investigators indicated that after taking off after the pilot had opened the gate, the helicopter flew south towards another gate, at between 20 and 30 feet above ground level, and at a speed of up to 27 knots. The track then turned slightly towards the second gate, which was required to be opened to allow the cattle through.
This gate was adjacent to the accident site, which was about 27 metres from a single wire earth return (SWER) powerline, which ran across the yards with a minimum height between spans of 24 feet (seven metres).
Examination of the helicopter’s flight controls, engine and structure did not identify any pre-existing defects. However, there was evidence of wirestrike marks on the front of the helicopter’s left skid.
A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation.
“However, should a critical safety issue be identified at any time during the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken,” said Macleod.