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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 223229
Last updated: 24 June 2021
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Type:Silhouette image of generic AS50 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Eurocopter AS 350B3 Ecureuil
Owner/operator:Aeropower Holdings Pty Ltd
Registration: VH-SZS
MSN: 7421
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Carrapateena Mine 66km east of Woomera, SA -   Australia
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Nature:External load operation
Departure airport:Carrapateena Airport, SA
Destination airport:Carrapateena Airport, SA
Investigating agency: ATSB
On 20 March 2019, the pilot of an Airbus Helicopters AS350B3e, registered VH-SZS was performing aerial work on Pernatty Station, South Australia, approximately 60 km east of Woomera Airfield.
The helicopter operator (Aeropower) had been contracted to conduct powerline stringing operations for a new 132 kV electrical transmission line from the Mount Gunson South substation to the Carrapateena mine site (operated by OZ Minerals), a total distance of 51 km.
Aeropower had been contracted by Powerlines Plus (PLP), which was in turn sub-contracted by Ventia to build the powerline.
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 10:17, 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.

Sources: (photo)

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: ATSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 1 year and 11 months
Download report: Final report



Photo of VH-SZS courtesy

Twin Waters / Novotel Resort [ Off-Airport ]
27 May 2016; (c) Ian McDonell

Photo: ATSB

Revision history:

20-Mar-2019 07:03 gerard57 Added
20-Mar-2019 07:38 ctyone Updated [Aircraft type]
20-Mar-2019 07:39 harro Updated [Aircraft type]
20-Mar-2019 11:46 Aerossurance Updated [Location, Source]
20-Mar-2019 11:49 Aerossurance Updated [Source, Embed code]
20-Mar-2019 11:51 Aerossurance Updated [Narrative]
20-Mar-2019 11:51 Aerossurance Updated [Operator, Embed code]
21-Mar-2019 00:04 RobertMB Updated [Time, Registration, Cn, Operator, Location, Source, Narrative]
17-Nov-2020 06:44 Aerossurance Updated [Nature, Narrative]

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