Accident and Serious Incident Reports: Helicopters

On 26 January 2020, a Sikorsky S76B on a night VFR passenger flight was observed to emerge from low cloud shortly after ATC had lost contact with it following a report that it was climbing to 4000 feet. It had then almost immediately crashed into terrain, destroying the aircraft and killing all its occupants. The Investigation found that the helicopter had been serviceable and that the pilot had lost control after intentionally continuing into IMC and then attempting to climb which resulted in spatial disorientation. The aircraft operator’s inadequate risk management was found to have contributed to the accident outcome.

On 12 March 2009, a Sikorsky S-92A crew heading offshore from St. John's, Newfoundland declared an emergency and began a return after total loss of main gear box oil pressure but lost control during an attempted ditching. The Investigation found that all oil had been lost after two main gear box securing bolts had sheared. It was noted that ambiguity had contributed to crew misdiagnosis the cause and that the ditching had been mishandled. Sea States beyond the capability of Emergency Flotation Systems and the limited usefulness of personal Supplemental Breathing Systems in cold water were identified as Safety Issues.

On 29 November 2013, control of an Airbus Helicopters EC135 undertaking a night VMC night for policing purposes was lost after both engines flamed out following fuel starvation. The subsequent crash killed the three occupants and seven on the ground, seriously injuring eleven others. The Investigation found that although the pilot had acknowledged low fuel warnings after both fuel transfer pumps had been switched off, the helicopter had not then been landed within 10 minutes as required. No evidence of any relevant airworthiness defects was found and without FDR/CVR data, a full explanation of the accident circumstances was not possible.

On 23 August 2013, the crew of a Eurocopter AS332 L2 Super Puma helicopter making a non-precision approach to runway 09 at Sumburgh with the AP engaged in 3-axes mode descended below MDA without visual reference and after exposing the helicopter to vortex ring conditions were unable to prevent a sudden onset high rate of descent followed by sea surface impact and rapid inversion of the floating helicopter. Four of the 18 occupants died and three were seriously injured. The Investigation found no evidence of contributory technical failure and attributed the accident to inappropriate flight path control by the crew.

On 16 January 2013, an Augusta 109E helicopter positioning by day on an implied (due to adverse weather conditions) SVFR clearance collided with a crane attached to a tall building under construction. It and associated debris fell to street level and the pilot and a pedestrian were killed and several others on the ground injured. It was concluded that the pilot had not seen the crane or seen it too late to avoid whilst flying by visual reference in conditions which had become increasingly challenging. The Investigation recommended improvements in the regulatory context in which the accident had occurred.

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