Passengers who were on board a sightseeing helicopter that crashed in the Northern Territory in May last year have said they were not given pre-flight safety briefings, including how to brace.
The Robinson R44, registered VH-KOV, was brought down by a seized clutch actuator lower bearing resulting in a loss of engine power to the rotor system, the ATSB found. Two passengers were severely injured, while the pilot and third passenger escaped with minor injuries.
In its report, the ATSB highlighted statements from passengers that pre-flight safety briefings had not been given, and key safety equipment such as a fire extinguisher was not on board. Additionally, after the crash, the pilot allegedly told passengers that the helicopter had no first aid kit, and the helicopter’s emergency locator transmitter (ELT) did not activate for hours after impact. The ATSB could not verify whether or not a first aid kit was actually on board.
“Having knowledge of what is available, and how it is used, is important in the event of an emergency, especially if the pilot is incapacitated and/or the flight is in a designated remote area. Fortunately, this did not affect the outcome on this occasion as the operator responded quickly when the helicopter did not return after the SARTIME had elapsed,” the ATSB wrote in its report.
“Another result of not receiving a safety brief was that the passengers were not given any information on how to brace during the accident. While all 3 passengers advised they did not know how to brace, it is difficult to assess if their injuries were increased as a result of not being briefed.”
The report found that the lower bearing seized due to inadequate maintenance – early in its life, it had been lubricated less often than the 300-hour frequency Robinson advised, while later in its life it was being lubricated more frequently than necessary.
“Two key findings from this investigation demonstrate the importance of following the relevant manufacturer’s maintenance procedures for all components of an aircraft,” said ATSB director transport safety Stuart Macleod.
“If a maintainer considers that additional maintenance should be conducted on any component of an aircraft, they should contact the manufacturer for engineering advice before varying from the procedure.”
The ELT had also not been maintained since the maintenance organisation took over responsibility for the helicopter.