Safety actions taken after serious rescue helicopter incident

  • ATSB has concluded a systemic investigation into the loss of control and near collision with terrain of a rescue helicopter in March 2021;
  • Final report notes a series of safety actions taken by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the aircraft operator;
  • All operators are reminded of their obligations to preserve flight data and cockpit voice recordings when requested by ATSB.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has welcomed a range of safety actions taken by an operator and the regulator after a serious incident involving a rescue helicopter west of Sydney.

On the night of 25 March 2021, a Leonardo Helicopters AW139 was in an 85 ft hover during winching operations near Katoomba, New South Wales. On board were a pilot, an aircrew officer, a doctor and a paramedic.

The pilot was maintaining the hover using visual reference points aided by night vision goggles and the aircraft’s landing lights.

Just as the paramedic was being winched down towards an injured bushwalker, the aircraft began to drift and bank towards nearby cliffs.

In response, the pilot pitched the aircraft away from the cliffs, lifting the nose to a maximum pitch of 51 degrees. The paramedic held onto the flight step and was uninjured. A warning indicated the engine was being over-torqued during the manoeuvre.

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