Accident Eurocopter EC120B Colibri VH-WII, 21 Mar 2018
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 207951
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Time:15:43 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic EC20 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Eurocopter EC120B Colibri
Owner/operator:Whitsunday Air Services
Registration: VH-WII
MSN: 1603
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 5
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:near Hardy Reef pontoon, off Whitsunday Islands, QLD -   Australia
Phase: Approach
Nature:Passenger - Non-Scheduled/charter/Air Taxi
Departure airport:Hamilton Island Airport, QLD
Destination airport:Hardy Reef pontoon
Investigating agency: ATSB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
A Eurocopter EC120B helicopter, registered VH-WII and operated by Whitsunday Air Services, departed Hamilton Island Airport, Queensland on a charter flight to Hardy Reef. On board were the pilot and four passengers.
The pilot conducted the approach to the pontoon landing site at Hardy Reef into wind. During the approach, the pilot slowed the helicopter to allow birds to disperse. The pilot was then planning to yaw the helicopter left into the intended landing position, and there was about 20 kt crosswind from the right of the intended position.
When the helicopter was yawing left into position, just over the pontoon, the pilot noticed a message illuminate on the helicopter’s vehicle engine multifunction display (VEMD), and elected to conduct a go-around. During the go-around, after the helicopter climbed to about 30–40 ft, there was a sudden and rapid yaw to the left. In response to the unanticipated rapid yaw, the pilot lowered the collective but was unable to recover the situation.
In the limited time available after the unsuccessful action to recover from the rapid left yaw, the pilot did not deploy the helicopter’s floats and conduct a controlled ditching. The helicopter collided with the water in a near-level attitude, with forward momentum and front-right corner first. Almost immediately, the helicopter rolled to the right and started rapidly filling with water. The pilot and two of the three rear seat passengers evacuated from the helicopter with minor injuries. Although the impact forces were survivable, the other two passengers were unconscious following the impact and did not survive the accident.
The helicopter sank and, associated with unfavourable weather conditions in the days following the accident, subsequent searches were unable to locate and recover the helicopter.

Although none of the possible VEMD messages required immediate action by the pilot, the pilot considered a go-around to be the best option given the circumstances at the time.
During the go-around, the helicopter continued yawing slowly to the left, and the pilot very likely did not apply sufficient right pedal input to correct the developing yaw and conduct the go-around into wind. The helicopter then continued yawing left, towards a downwind position, until the sudden and rapid yaw to the left occurred. In response to the rapid yaw, it is very likely that the pilot did not immediately apply full and sustained right pedal input.
The operator complied with the regulatory requirements for training and experience of pilots on new helicopter types. However, the ATSB found the operator had limited processes in place to ensure that pilots with minimal time and experience on a new and technically different helicopter type had the opportunity to effectively consolidate their skills on the type required for conducting the operator's normal operations to pontoons. In this case, the pilot of the accident flight had 11.0 hours experience in command on the EC120B helicopter type, and had conducted 16.1 hours in another and technically different helicopter type during the period of acquiring their EC120B experience. Associated with this limited consolidation on the EC120B, it is likely that the pilot was experiencing a high workload during the final approach and a very high workload during the subsequent go-around.
In addition to limited consolidation of skills on type, the ATSB found that the safety margin associated with landing the helicopter on the pontoon at Hardy Reef was reduced due to a combination of factors, each of which individually was within relevant requirements or limits. These factors included the helicopter being close to the maximum all-up weight, the helicopter’s engine power output being close to the lowest allowable limit, the need to use high power to make a slow approach in order to disperse birds from the pontoon, and the routine approach and landing position on the pontoon requiring the pilot to turn left into a right crosswind (in a helicopter with a clockwise-rotating main rotor system).

The ATSB also identified that the passengers were not provided with sufficient instructions on how to operate the emergency exits and the passenger seated next to the rear left sliding door (emergency exit) was unable to locate the exit operating handle during the emergency, and as a result the evacuation of passengers was delayed until another passenger was able to open the exit. The nature of the handle’s design was such that its purpose was not readily apparent, and the placard providing instructions for opening the sliding door did not specify all the actions required to successfully open the door.
The investigation also identified safety factors associated with the operator’s use of passenger-volunteered weights for weight and balance calculations, the operator’s system for identifying and briefing passengers with reduced mobility, bird hazard management at the pontoons, and passenger control at the pontoons.


Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: ATSB
Status: Investigation completed
Download report: Final report


Revision history:

21-Mar-2018 08:51 Iceman 29 Added
21-Mar-2018 08:56 Iceman 29 Updated [Embed code]
21-Mar-2018 08:58 Iceman 29 Updated [Aircraft type, Embed code]
21-Mar-2018 09:09 Iceman 29 Updated [Location, Embed code, Narrative]
21-Mar-2018 09:10 Iceman 29 Updated [Embed code, Narrative]
21-Mar-2018 11:04 Iceman 29 Updated [Registration, Cn, Operator, Nature, Source, Damage, Narrative]
21-Mar-2018 15:33 Iceman 29 Updated [Phase, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
22-Mar-2018 07:28 Iceman 29 Updated [Embed code]
22-Mar-2018 07:51 Iceman 29 Updated [Embed code, Narrative]
22-Mar-2018 07:53 Iceman 29 Updated [Narrative]
22-Mar-2018 08:50 Anon. Updated [Registration, Cn]
22-Mar-2018 08:51 harro Updated [Time, Registration, Cn, Source, Narrative]
22-Mar-2018 13:47 Iceman 29 Updated [Embed code]
22-Mar-2018 20:15 Geno Updated [Source, Embed code]
23-Mar-2018 21:25 Pineapple Updated [Damage]
30-Mar-2018 09:12 Iceman 29 Updated [Embed code]
18-Apr-2018 01:48 Iceman 29 Updated [Departure airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
18-Apr-2018 05:27 Anon. Updated [Departure airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
09-Jun-2022 10:59 Ron Averes Updated [Location]

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