ROSSY RO­TOR CRASH PROBE

North West Telegraph - - Front Page - Glenn Cordingley and Sam Jones

Air Trans­port Safety Bureau in­ves­ti­ga­tors have re­leased their find­ings af­ter a he­li­copter Pil­bara pi­lot Ross McDow­ell was fly­ing to muster cat­tle in 2015 crashed, caus­ing his death at age 62.

The he­li­copter Mr McDow­ell, pic­tured, had as­sem­bled just weeks ear­lier dis­in­te­grated in mid-air about 9km from his destinatio­n while fly­ing from Indee Sta­tion to Roy Hill.

The ATSB found a sta­biliser had sep­a­rated from the tail boom as a re­sult of fa­tigue crack­ing of the sta­biliser mount, but were un­able to de­ter­mine how a num­ber of pos­si­ble fac­tors con­trib­uted to the fa­tigue.

Mr McDow­ell, known af­fec­tion­ately as Rossy Ro­tor, was one of the re­gion’s most ex­pe­ri­enced he­li­copter pi­lots.

Both he­li­copters had pre­vi­ously been used for mus­ter­ing.

ATSB re­port

A well-known pi­lot who died when his kit he­li­copter crashed in the North West was us­ing the ma­chine for mus­ter­ing when it was de­signed for recre­ational use only, an Air Trans­port Safety Bureau in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found.

Ross McDow­ell, 62, pic­tured, was fly­ing from Indee Sta­tion to Roy Hill Sta­tion in the Pil­bara to round-up cat­tle in 2015 when the he­li­copter he had as­sem­bled just weeks ear­lier dis­in­te­grated in mid-air, about 9km from his destinatio­n.

The ATSB ex­am­ined the wreck­age and found a sta­biliser had sep­a­rated from the tail boom as a re­sult of fa­tigue crack­ing of the sta­biliser mount.

It was the sec­ond fa­tal ac­ci­dent in Aus­tralia in­volv­ing in­flight sta­biliser sep­a­ra­tion on a Ci­care CH-7B.

Fol­low­ing the first fa­tal­ity in Queens­land in 2014, the man­u­fac­turer re­leased a manda­tory ser­vice bul­letin re­quir­ing in­spec­tion of the sta­biliser as­sem­bly but it did not in­clude an ini­tial or re­cur­rent time in­ter­val for that check.

“This po­ten­tially re­duced the op­por­tu­nity to de­tect the pres­ence of crack ini­ti­a­tion and growth in the sta­biliser sup­port as­sem­bly,” the ATSB crash in­ves­ti­ga­tion said.

The ATSB found there were no­table dif­fer­ences be­tween both air­craft and the ac­ci­dents were not di­rectly com­pa­ra­ble.

How­ever, it was es­tab­lished they were fit­ted with an ex­ter­nal stor­age pod, likely with­out the ap­pro­pri­ate en­gi­neer­ing as­sess­ment to en­sure no ad­verse ef­fects on per­for­mance, han­dling and struc­ture.

“In ad­di­tion, both he­li­copters had pre­vi­ously been used for mus­ter­ing op­er­a­tions, although the he­li­copters were de­signed to be used for recre­ational use only,” the re­port stated.

The ATSB found own­ers of the same am­a­teur-built chop­pers were also likely us­ing them for aerial mus­ter­ing and other agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties.

“The ad­di­tion of un­ap­proved mod­i­fi­ca­tions and use for mus­ter­ing op­er­a­tions can pro­duce un­in­tended stresses on the air­frame lead­ing to pre­ma­ture fail­ure of com­po­nents,” the re­port said.

The ATSB found a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors could have con­trib­uted to the de­vel­op­ment of the fa­tigue crack in­clud­ing the sta­biliser de­sign, op­er­at­ing the he­li­copter in high-load mus­ter­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and the use of untested ac­ces­sories.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was un­able to de­ter­mine the con­tri­bu­tion of these fac­tors.

A state­ment re­leased by Mr McDow­ell’s fam­ily said they wel­comed the fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the re­port, as it al­lowed pro­gres­sion to a Coro­ner’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which they hoped would lead to the pre­ven­tion of fur­ther deaths as a re­sult of kit he­li­copters.

Mr McDow­ell, known af­fec­tion­ately as Rossy Ro­tor, was one of the Pil­bara’s most ex­pe­ri­enced he­li­copter pi­lots, with more than 30,000 fly­ing hours, and was re­mem­bered as a fa­ther fig­ure to young pas­toral­ists in the north. He spent more than 30 years fly­ing be­tween sta­tions to muster cat­tle un­til his death five years ago.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.