Passengers thrown from overloaded helicopter
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.