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Accident and Serious Incident Reports: Helicopters

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Category: Helicopter Safety Helicopter Safety
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Accidents and Incidents involving Helicopters/Rotary Wing Aircraft

  • A109, vicinity London Heliport London UK, 2013 (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.)
  • A139 / A30B, Ottawa Canada, 2014 (On 5 June 2014, an AW139 about to depart from its Ottawa home base on a positioning flight exceeded its clearance limit and began to hover taxi towards the main runway as an A300 was about to touch down on it. The TWR controller immediately instructed the helicopter to stop which it did, just clear of the runway. The A300 reached taxi speed just prior to the intersection. The Investigation attributed the error to a combination of distraction and expectancy and noted that the AW139 pilot had not checked actual or imminent runway occupancy prior to passing his clearance limit.)
  • A139, vicinity Sky Shuttle Heliport Hong Kong China, 2010 (On 3 July 2010, an AW 139 helicopter was climbing through 350 feet over water two minutes after take off when the tail rotor fell off. A transition to autorotation was accomplished and a controlled ditching followed. All on board were rescued, some sustained minor injuries. The failure was attributed entirely to manufacturing defects but no action was taken until two similar accidents had occurred in Qatar (non-fatal) and Brazil (fatal) the following year and two Safety Recommendations had been issued from this Investigation after which a comprehensive review of the manufacturing process resulted in numerous changes monitored by EASA.)
  • A169, Leicester UK, 2018 (On 27 October 2018, a single pilot Augusta Westland AW169 lifted off from within the King Power Stadium, but after a failure of the tail rotor control system, a loss of yaw control occurred a few hundred feet above ground. The helicopter began to descend with a high rotation rate and soon afterward impacted the ground and almost immediately caught fire, which prevented those onboard surviving. An Investigation is being conducted by the UK AAIB.)
  • A320 / A139 vicinity Zurich Switzerland, 2012 (On 29 May 2012, a British Airways Airbus A320 departing Zürich and in accordance with its SID in a climbing turn received and promptly and correctly actioned a TCAS RA 'CLIMB'. The conflict which caused this was with an AW 139 also departing Zürich IFR in accordance with a SID but, as this aircraft was only equipped with a TAS to TCAS 1 standard, the crew independently determined from their TA that they should descend and did so. The conflict, in Class 'C' airspace, was attributed to inappropriate clearance issue by the TWR controller and their inappropriate separation monitoring thereafter.)
  • AS32 / B734, Aberdeen UK, 2000 (For reasons that were not established, a Super Puma helicopter being air tested and in the hover at about 30 feet agl near the active runway at Aberdeen assumed that the departure clearance given by GND was a take off clearance and moved into the hover over the opposite end of the runway at the same time as a Boeing 737 was taking off. The 737 saw the helicopter ahead and made a high speed rejected take off, stopping approximately 100 metres before reaching the position of the helicopter which had by then moved off the runway still hovering.)
  • AS32, en-route, North Sea Norway, 1998 (On 20 October 1998, in the North Sea, an Eurocopter AS332L Super Puma operated by Norsk HeliKopter AS, experienced engine failure with autorotation and subsequent lost of height. The crew misidentified the malfunctioning engine and reduced the power of the remaining serviceable engine. However, the mistake was realised quickly enough for the crew to recover control of the helicopter.)
  • AS32, en-route, North Sea UK, 2002 (On 28th February 2002, an Aerospatiale AS332L Super Puma helicopter en route approximately 70 nm northeast of Scatsa, Shetland Islands was in the vicinity of a storm cell when a waterspout was observed about a mile abeam. Soon afterwards, violent pitch, roll and yaw with significant negative and positive ‘g’ occurred. Recovery to normal flight was achieved after 15 seconds and after a control check, the flight was completed. After flight, all five tail rotor blades and tail pylon damage were discovered. It was established that this serious damage was the result of contact between the blades and the pylon.)
  • AS32, en-route, near Peterhead Scotland UK, 2009 (On 1 April 2009, the flight crew of a Bond Helicopters’ Eurocopter AS332 L2 Super Puma en route from the Miller Offshore Platform to Aberdeen at an altitude of 2000 feet lost control of their helicopter when a sudden and catastrophic failure of the main rotor gearbox occurred and, within less than 20 seconds, the hub with the main rotor blades attached separated from the helicopter causing it to fall into the sea at a high vertical speed The impact destroyed the helicopter and all 16 occupants were killed. Seventeen Safety Recommendations were made as a result of the investigation.)
  • AS3B, en-route, northern North Sea UK, 2008 (On 22 February 2008, a Eurocopter AS332 L2 Super Puma flying from an offshore oil platform to Aberdeen was struck by lightning. There was no apparent consequence and so, although this event required a landing as soon as possible, the commander decided to continue the remaining 165nm to the planned destination which was achieved uneventfully. Main rotor blade damage including some beyond repairable limits was subsequently discovered. The Investigation noted evidence indicating that this helicopter type had a relatively high propensity to sustain lightning strikes but noted that, despite the risk of damage, there was currently no adverse safety trend.)
  • AS3B, vicinity Den Helder Netherlands, 2006 (On 21 November 2006, the crew of a Bristow Eurocopter AS332 L2 making an unscheduled passenger flight from an offshore platform to Den Helder in night VMC decided to ditch their aircraft after apparent malfunction of an engine and the flight controls were perceived as rendering it unable to safely complete the flight. All 17 occupants survived but the evacuation was disorganised and both oversight of the operation by and the actions of the crew were considered to have been inappropriate in various respects. Despite extensive investigation, no technical fault which would have rendered it unflyable could be confirmed.)
  • AS3B, vicinity Sumburgh Airport Shetland Islands UK, 2013 (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.)
  • AS50 / PA32, en-route, Hudson River NJ USA, 2009 (On August 8, 2009 a privately operated PA32 and a Eurocopter AS350BA helicopter being operated by Liberty Helicopters on a public transport sightseeing flight collided in VMC over the Hudson River near Hoboken, New Jersey whilst both operating under VFR. The three occupants of the PA32, which was en route from Wings Field PA to Ocean City NJ, and the six occupants of the helicopter, which had just left the West 30th Street Heliport, were killed and both aircraft received substantially damaged.)
  • AS50, Dalamot Norway, 2011 (On 4 July 2011, an Airlift Eurocopter AS 350 making a passenger charter flight to a mountain cabin in day VMC appeared to suddenly depart controlled flight whilst making a tight right turn during positioning to land at the destination landing site and impacted terrain soon afterwards. The helicopter was destroyed by the impact and ensuing fire and all five occupants were fatally injured. The subsequent investigation came to the conclusion that the apparently abrupt manoeuvring may have led to an encounter with ‘servo transparency’ at a height from which the pilot was unable to recover before impact occurred.)
  • AS50, en-route, Hawaii USA, 2005 (On 23 September 2005, an AS350 helicopter, operated by Heli USA Airways, crashed into the sea off Hawaii following loss of control associated with flight into adverse weather conditions.)
  • AS55, vicinity Fairview Alberta Canada, 1999 (On 28th April 1999, an AS-355 helicopter suffered an in-flight fire attributed to an electrical fault which had originated from a prior maintenance error undetected during incomplete pre-flight inspections. The aircraft carried out an immediate landing allowing evacuation before the aircraft was destroyed by an intense fire.)
  • AS65, vicinity North Morecambe Platform Irish Sea UK, 2006 (On 27 December 2006, an AS365 Dauphin 2, operated by CHC Scotia, crashed into the sea adjacent to a gas platform in Morecambe Bay, UK, at night, following loss of control.)
  • B412, vicinity Karlsborg Sweden, 2003 (On 25 March 2003, the crew of a Bell 412 lost control of the aircraft as a result of pilot mishandling associated with the development of a Vortex Ring State.)
  • D150 / H500, London UK, 2007 (On 5 October 2007, a loss of separation occurred between a Hughes 369 helicopter and a Jodel D150. The incident occurred outside controlled airspace, in VMC, and the estimated vertical separation as the Jodel took avoiding action by descending, was assessed by both pilots to be less than 50 feet.)
  • D328 / R44, Bern Switzerland, 2012 (On 2 June 2012, a Dornier 328 and a commercially-operated Robinson R44 helicopter came into close proximity within the airport perimeter whilst both were departing from Bern in VMC as cleared. The Investigation attributed the conflict to inappropriate issue of clearances by the controller in a context of an absence of both a defined final approach and take off area and fixed departure routes to the three designated departure points.)
  • EC25, en-route, 20nm east of Aberdeen UK, 2012 (On 10 May 2012, the crew of a Eurocopter EC225 LP on a flight from Aberdeen to an offshore platform received an indication that the main gearbox (MGB) lubrication system had failed. Shortly after selecting the emergency lubrication system, that also indicated failure and the crew responded in accordance with the QRH drill to “land immediately” by carrying out a successful controlled ditching. The ongoing investigation has found that there had been a mechanical failure of the MGB but that the emergency lubrication system had, contrary to indications, been functioning normally.)
  • EC25, en-route, 32nm southwest of Sumburgh UK, 2012 (On 22 October 2012, the crew of a Eurocopter EC225 LP on a flight from Aberdeen to an offshore platform received an indication that the main gearbox (MGB) lubrication system had failed. Shortly after selecting the emergency lubrication system, that system also indicated failure and the crew responded in accordance with the QRH drill to “land immediately” by carrying out a successful controlled ditching. The ongoing investigation has found that there had been a mechanical failure within the MGB but that the emergency lubrication system had, contrary to indications, been functioning normally.)
  • EC25, vicinity Bergen Norway, 2016 (On 29 April 2016, an Airbus EC225 Super Puma main rotor detached without warning en-route to Bergen. Control was lost and it crashed and was destroyed. Rotor detachment was attributed to undetected development of metal fatigue in the same gearbox component which caused an identical 2009 accident to a variant of the same helicopter type. Despite this previous accident, the failure mode involved had not been properly understood or anticipated. The investigation identifies significant lessons to be learned related to gearbox design, risk assessment, fatigue evaluation, gearbox condition monitoring, type certification and continued airworthiness, which may also be valid for other helicopter types.)
  • EC25, vicinity ETAP Central offshore platform, North Sea UK (On 18 February 2009, the crew of Eurocopter EC225 LP Super Puma attempting to make an approach to a North Sea offshore platform in poor visibility at night lost meaningful visual reference and a sea impact followed. All occupants escaped from the helicopter and were subsequently rescued. The investigation concluded that the accident probably occurred because of the effects of oculogravic and somatogravic illusions combined with both pilots being focused on the platform and not monitoring the flight instruments.)
  • EC25, Åsgård B Platform North Sea, 2012 (On 12 January 2012, the crew of an EC 225LP helicopter were unable to prevent it almost departing the helideck at the offshore platform where it had just made a normal touch down at night after an en route diversion prompted by a partial hydraulic failure. An emergency evacuation was ordered and ground crew intervention prevented further helicopter movement. A component in the left main landing gear brake unit was found to have failed due to a manufacturing fault. Emergency Regulatory action for the helicopter type followed in respect of both the airworthiness and operational issues highlighted by the Investigation.)
  • EC35, Sollihøgda Norway, 2014 (On 14 January 2014, the experienced pilot of an EC 135 HEMS aircraft lost control as a result of a collision with unseen and difficult to visually detect power lines as it neared the site of a road accident at Sollihøgda to which it was responding which damaged the main rotor and led to it falling rapidly from about 80 feet agl. The helicopter was destroyed by the impact which killed two of the three occupants and seriously injured the third. The Investigation identified opportunities to improve both obstacle documentation / pilot proactive obstacle awareness and on site emergency communications.)
  • EC35, vicinity Glasgow City Heliport UK, 2013 (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.)
  • EC55, en-route, Hong Kong China, 2003 (On 26 August 2003, at night, a Eurocopter EC155, operated by Hong Kong Government Flight Service (GFS), performing a casualty evacuation mission (casevac), impacted the elevated terrain in Tung Chung Gap near Hong Kong International airport.)
  • F100 / EC45, vicinity Bern Switzerland, 2012 (On 24 May 2012, a Fokker 100 descending visual downwind to land at Berne and an EC145 helicopter transiting the Bern CTR (Class 'D' airspace) VFR came within 0.7 nm horizontally and 75 ft vertically despite early traffic advice having been given to both aircraft. The Investigation attributed the conflict to the failure of the F100 crew to follow either their initial TCAS RA or a subsequent revised one and noted that although STCA was installed at Berne it had been disabled "many years before".)
  • H500 / D150, en-route, North of London UK, 2007 (On 5 October 2007, a loss of separation occurred between a Hughes 369 helicopter and a Jodel D150. The incident occurred outside controlled airspace, in VMC, and the estimated vertical separation as the Jodel took avoiding action by descending, was assessed by both pilots to be less than 50 feet.)
  • NIM / AS32, vicinity RAF Kinloss UK, 2006 (On 17 October 2006, at night, in low cloud and poor visibility conditions in the vicinity of Kinloss Airfield UK, a loss of separation event occurred between an RAF Nimrod MR2 aircraft and a civilian AS332L Puma helicopter.)
  • P28A / S76, Humberside UK 2009 (On 26 September 2009, a Piper PA28-140 flown by an experienced pilot was about to touch down after a day VMC approach about a mile behind an S76 helicopter which was also categorised as 'Light' for Wake Vortex purposes rolled uncontrollably to the right in the flare and struck the ground inverted seriously injuring the pilot. The Investigation noted existing informal National Regulatory Authority guidance material already suggested that light aircraft pilots might treat 'Light' helicopters as one category higher when on approach and recommended that this advice be more widely promulgated.)
  • S61, vicinity Bournemouth UK, 2002 (On 15 July 2002, a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter operated by Bristow suffered a catastrophic engine failure and fire. After an emergency landing and evacuation, the aircraft was destroyed by an intense fire.)
  • S61, vicinity Bødo Norway, 2008 (On 24 February 2008, a Sikorsky S-61N being operated by British International Helicopters on a passenger flight from Værøy to Bødo attempted a visual approach at destination in day IMC and came close to unseen terrain before accepting an offer of assistance from ATC to achieve an ILS approach to runway 07 without further event. None of the 18 occupants were injured.)
  • S76, Peasmarsh East Sussex UK, 2012 (On 3 May 2012, a Sikorsky S76C operating a passenger flight to a private landing site at night discontinued an initial approach because of lack of visual reference in an unlit environment and began to position for another. The commander became spatially disorientated and despite a number of EGPWS Warnings, continued manoeuvring until ground impact was only narrowly avoided - the minimum recorded height was 2 feet +/- 2 feet. An uneventful diversion followed. The Investigation recommended a review of the regulations that allowed descent below MSA for landing when flying in IMC but not on a published approach procedure.)
  • S76, vicinity Moosonee ON Canada, 2013 (On 31 May 2013 the crew of an S76A helicopter positioning for a HEMS detail took off VFR into a dark night environment and lost control as a low level turn was initiated and did not recover. The helicopter was destroyed and the four occupants killed. The Investigation found that the crew had little relevant experience and were not "operationally ready" to conduct a night VFR take off into an area of total darkness. Significant deficiencies at the Operator and in respect of the effectiveness of its Regulatory oversight were identified as having been a significant context for the accident.)
  • S92, West Franklin Wellhead Platform North Sea, 2016 (On 28 December 2016, yaw control was lost during touchdown of a Sikorsky S92A landing on a North Sea offshore platform and it almost fell into the sea. The Investigation found that the loss of control was attributable to the failure of the Tail Rotor Pitch Change Shaft bearing which precipitated damage to the associated control servo. It was also found that despite HUMS monitoring being in place, it had been ineffective in proactively alerting the operator to the earlier stages of progressive bearing deterioration which could have ensured the helicopter was grounded for rectification before the accident occurred.)
  • S92, en-route, east of St John’s Newfoundland Canada, 2009 (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.)