• The accident site of VH-NBY. (ATSB)
    The accident site of VH-NBY. (ATSB)

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued a call to pilots, operators and engineers for help in the investigation into a fatal R44 crash in Broome last year.

VH-NBY crashed almost immediately after take-off in July 2020, killing the pilot and one other passenger. Two other passengers sustained serious injuries.

The ATSB preliminary investigation concludes that the tail rotor assembly separated from the aircraft, but at this stage  extensive and ongoing metallurgical examination and analysis of the airframe and tail rotor components has failed to determine a reason.

“Due to the disruptive nature of the accident, this examination and analysis may not reveal a specific point of failure in the helicopter,” said ATSB Director Transport Safety Dr Mike Walker.

“Indeed, in similar accidents overseas, despite extensive materials analysis, contributing factors have not been identified.”

Walker said the ATSB has been working with Robinson Helicopters, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the UK Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) to understand this and similar accidents, but needed to turn to the Australia helicopter community for further help.

“To help us better understand the nature of this accident, we are seeking Robinson R22, R44 and R66 helicopter pilots, operators and maintenance engineers who may have knowledge of aft tail cone bulkhead or tail rotor gearbox input cartridge damage to make contact with us as soon as practical,” Walker said.

“There may have been events during ground handling resulting in damage to Robinson helicopters that were not required to be reported to the ATSB.

“As a result, industry may be aware of information that could significantly aid the ATSB’s investigation.”

The ATSB has stressed that it has not yet concluded that ground handling contributed to the accident.

Information on any relevant incidents can be passed to the ATSB via e-mail atsbinfo@atsb.gov.au

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