This Day in History: 2019-03-20

Eurocopter AS 350B3 Ecureuil VH-SZS operated by Aeropower Holdings Pty Ltd crashed at Carrapateena Mine 66 km east of Woomera, SA on 20 March 2019. The helicopter was performing aerial work on Pernatty Station, South Australia, approximately 60 km east of Woomera Airfield. The task involved helicopter powerline stringing from the Mount Gunson South substation to the Carrapateena mine site, a total distance of 51 km. The stage being conducted on the morning of 20 March was from pole 159 to pole 179, a distance of 4.8 km. Stringing operations continued normally for poles 161, 162 and 163. However, while approaching pole 164, at about 1017am, witnesses reported seeing the helicopter collide with the pole and impact terrain near the base of the pole. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, received fatal injuries. The ATSB found that shortly after the pilot was trained in powerline stringing, for unknown reasons they modified the taught stringing methodology. The new methodology placed the helicopter at low level in the vicinity of the powerline poles, increasing the risk of a collision. It also exacerbated the uptake of dust which, in combination with the position of the sun and the rearward attitude of the aircraft likely reduced the pilots’ visibility of pole 164 and their situational awareness of it. These factors, combined with the short distance and large elevation gain between pole 163 and 164, led to the pilot inadvertently colliding with pole 164. It was also found that the indirect supervision provided to the newly trained pilot was ineffective in identifying that a modified stringing method was being used. Source: ATSB