He­li­copter in fa­tal crash was too heavy

The Dominion Post - - News - JAMES PAUL

There was no me­chan­i­cal rea­son for the he­li­copter crash that killed Jerome Box in 2014 on Mt Alta near Mt As­pir­ing Na­tional Park, the Trans­port Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Com­mis­sion (TAIC) has found.

Un­ad­justed seat­belts, fly­ing with a heav­ier load and an un­in­tended an­gle of ap­proach were just some of the rea­sons that con­trib­uted to the ac­ci­dent that trapped and killed the Auck­land pas­sen­ger on Au­gust 16.

The AS350 he­li­copter, op­er­ated by The He­li­copter Line, struck the slope heav­ily af­ter the pilot tried to cor­rect his land­ing ap­proach.

TAIC’s chief com­mis­sioner, Jane Meares, said the ac­ci­dent caused the cabin to break apart, eject­ing five of the seven oc­cu­pants, be­fore the he­li­copter rolled 300 me­tres down the moun­tain.

Six pas­sen­gers suf­fered mod­er­ate to se­ri­ous injuries.

‘‘The com­mis­sion found it was very likely that sev­eral of the pas­sen­gers’ seat­belts were not se­curely ad­justed, which made it more likely that they would be ejected,’’ Meares said.

Had its seat­belts been ad­justed more se­curely, the injuries suf­fered by the pas­sen­gers may not have been so se­vere.

In ad­di­tion, the air­craft was over­loaded.

‘‘The he­li­copter was loaded 30 kilo­grams over the max­i­mum per­mis­si­ble weight, and its cen­tre of grav­ity was just for­ward of what was al­lowed. It was op­er­at­ing at or close to the per­for­mance limit for hov­er­ing in this sit­u­a­tion.’’

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fa­tal crash of the tourist he­li­copter on the South­ern Alps ridge­line also found other safety is­sues.

Pi­lots weren’t rou­tinely re­quired to cal­cu­late the per­for­mance ca­pa­bil­ity of their he­li­copters for the in­tended flight. There was also a risk of pi­lots not know­ing their air­craft’s ca­pa­bil­ity when us­ing its stan­dard pas­sen­ger weight.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the com­mis­sion found this ac­ci­dent and oth­ers sug­gested a cul­ture among New Zealand pi­lots of op­er­at­ing air­craft be­yond their lim­its.

The in­quiry made three rec­om­men­da­tions to the di­rec­tor of Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity, Graeme Har­ris, that would ad­dress the iden­ti­fied safety is­sues.

These were to re­mind air­craft op­er­a­tors and pi­lots of prop­erly se­cur­ing seat­belts, of their he­li­copter’s per­for­mance, and the need to be alert to the po­ten­tial for ad­verse en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions to oc­cur.

The con­di­tions at the time of the crash were fine, clear and there were light vari­able winds in the area. The He­li­copter Line was us­ing sev­eral AS350-B2 (Squir­rel) he­li­copters to ferry heli-ski groups to the top of ski runs.

The wrecked dash­board of the AS350 he­li­copter, op­er­ated by The He­li­copter Line, on Mt Alta. Pas­sen­ger Jerome Box, be­low, was killed in the Au­gust 2014 crash.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.