• The approach path to the pontoon of VH-WII. (Google Earth annotated by the ATSB)
    The approach path to the pontoon of VH-WII. (Google Earth annotated by the ATSB)

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) today released its investigation report into the fatal crash of an EC120 on the Great Barrier Reef in 2018, saying a lack of type consolidation contributed to the accident.

EC120B VH-WII crashed into the sea in March 2018 after the pilot initiated a go-around from a pontoon at Hardy Reef. The aircraft began to yaw sharply to the left and the pilot was unable to arrest the yaw. Of the five people on board, two passengers did not survive the crash.

The pilot was attempting a cross-wind landing when he noted an engine malfunction warning on the aircraft's avionics and elected to go-around rather than continue with the landing.

"During the go-around, after the helicopter climbed to about 30–40 ft, there was a sudden and rapid yaw to the left. In response to the unanticipated rapid yaw, the pilot lowered the collective but was unable to recover the situation," the ATSB investigation report states.

"In the limited time available after the unsuccessful action to recover from the rapid left yaw, the pilot did not deploy the helicopter’s floats and conduct a controlled ditching. The helicopter collided with the water in a near-level attitude, with forward momentum and front-right corner first."

The ATSB investigators concluded that the pilot most likely didn't apply enough anti-yaw pedal to correct the situation. It also found that the malfunction warning didn't warrant immediate action.

The pilot had only 11 hours on EC120s, and interspersed in those hours were 16 hours on Bell 206s, which the ATSB believes may have resulted in a lack of type consolidation on the EC120.

“The operator had complied with the regulatory requirements for training and experience for pilots on new helicopter types, said ATSB Director Transport Safety Dr Mike Walker, "but had limited processes in place to ensure pilots with minimal time and experience on a new and technically different helicopter type had the opportunity to effectively consolidate their skills required for conducting operations to pontoons."

In 2005, the helicopter’s manufacturer released a service letter to remind pilots that Fenestron tail rotors require significantly more pedal travel than conventional tail rotors when transitioning from forward flight to a hover.

The full report is on the ATSB website.

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