Pas­sen­gers thrown from over­loaded he­li­copter

The Press - - News -

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

In­stead, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion found sev­eral safety is­sues con­trib­uted to the Squir­relAS350 B2 crash.

Unad­justed seat­belts, fly­ing while over­loaded and an un­in­tended an­gle of ap­proach were among fac­tors that con­trib­uted to the death of the Auck­land man on Au­gust 16, 2014.

The he­li­copter, be­long­ing to Har­ris Moun­tains Heliski and op­er­ated by The He­li­copter Line, struck the slope heav­ily after the pi­lot tried to cor­rect his land­ing ap­proach.

TAIC chief com­mis­sioner Jane Meares said the crash caused the cabin to break apart. The he­li­copter then rolled 300 me­tres down the moun­tain and ejected five of the seven peo­ple on board.

‘‘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,’’ she said.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion found other safety is­sues, in­clud­ing a risk of pi­lots not know­ing their air­craft’s ca­pa­bil­ity when us­ing standard pas­sen­ger weight. The pos­si­bil­ity of vor­tex ring state af­fect­ing the flight at some stage could not be ruled out.

The com­mis­sion found this crash and oth­ers sug­gested a cul­ture among New Zealand pi­lots of op­er­at­ing air­craft be­yond their lim­its.

It made three rec­om­men­da­tions to Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity di­rec­tor Graeme Har­ris, in­clud­ing re­mind­ing air­craft op­er­a­tors and pi­lots of prop­erly se­cur­ing all seat­belts, of he­li­copter per­for­mance and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions that could lead to vor­tex ring state, and of the need to be alert to the po­ten­tial for it to hap­pen.

The com­mis­sion found no me­chan­i­cal rea­son for the crash.

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