He­li­copter pilot was dis­tracted by phone

■ Air­craft dam­aged af­ter it tipped over dur­ing land­ing on Kerry beach

Irish Examiner - - News - Seán McCárthaigh

Sub­stan­tial dam­age was caused to a he­li­copter on land­ing on a beach last sum­mer af­ter the pilot was dis­tracted by his mo­bile phone.

A new re­port by the Air Ac­ci­dent In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit (AAIU) re­veals a he­li­copter tipped over onto its side af­ter land­ing at Car­ra­hane Strand near Ard­fert, Co Kerry, on July 16.

Sub­stan­tial dam­age was caused to the En­strom 280FX he­li­copter.

The in­ci­dent oc­curred af­ter the 72-year-old pilot de­cided to land briefly for a break while car­ry­ing out prac­tice ex­er­cises near Car­ra­hane Strand.

The AAIU re­port said the skids of the he­li­copter had landed softly in the sur­face of soft, wet sand be­fore rolling over onto its left side.

The pilot, who was un­in­jured in the in­ci­dent, was able to exit the he­li­copter through the right-hand door.

He told AAIU in­spec­tors that his mo­bile phone rang just as he was about to land.

The pilot said the de­vice con­tained soft­ware for nav­i­ga­tion and flight plan­ning but stressed he would never use it for com­mu­ni­ca­tions dur­ing a flight.

He ad­mit­ted glanc­ing at the phone, which was mounted on a bracket be­side the in­stru­ment panel, in or­der to iden­tify the caller.

At the same time, a gust of wind from the west hit the right side of the he­li­copter which caused it to roll over onto its left side, caus­ing sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to the ro­tor blades, ro­tor mast, and tail ro­tor.

The pilot said the en­tire in­ci­dent was “over in an in­stant”.

The AAIU said the he­li­copter skid which was em­bed­ded in soft, wet sand would have acted as a pivot point which prob­a­bly led to a “dy­namic rollover”.

The re­moval of the he­li­copter from the strand was or­gan­ised be­fore it could be in­spected at the scene of the ac­ci­dent as the in­com­ing tide could have re­sulted in its to­tal loss.

While the AAIU did not is­sue any safety rec­om­men­da­tions, it noted that the land­ing of a he­li­copter was a crit­i­cal phase of a flight when cir­cum­stances could change rapidly.

“For this rea­son, any dis­trac­tion dur­ing land­ing can con­trib­ute to an up­set un­less a prompt in­ter­ven­tion is ini­ti­ated,” it added.

The AAIU pointed out that the US Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board has is­sued a safety alert which high­lighted the dan­gers of us­ing por­ta­ble elec­tronic de­vices such as mo­bile phones, tablets and GPS units in the cock­pit.

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