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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 233
Last updated: 27 September 2021
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Date:12-MAR-1999
Time:11:47 EST
Type:Silhouette image of generic B06 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Bell 206L-3 LongRanger III
Owner/operator:Sunlover Helicopters
Registration: VH-NDW
MSN: 51290
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 6
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:5 km SE Cairns, (VOR), QLD -   Australia
Phase: Approach
Nature:Passenger - Non-Scheduled/charter/Air Taxi
Departure airport:Green Island, QLD
Destination airport:The Pier, Cairns Harbour, QLD
Narrative:
The helicopter company's operations, based at Cairns Airport, Queensland, included passenger charter flights between The Pier, at Cairns Harbour (4 km SE Cairns Airport) and Green Island (22 km NE Cairns Airport).

At about 1035 eastern standard time the pilot departed The Pier for Green Island in a Bell 206 helicopter with six passengers on board. Because of the likelihood of mechanical turbulence in the lee of the high terrain south of Trinity Inlet, he initially tracked via the Cairns Harbour shipping channel. When he reached the end of the shipping channel, he was unable to see the island because of rain so he descended from his cruise altitude of 500 ft to about 300 ft and was then able to see the island about 9 km ahead. The helicopter arrived at Green Island at about 1045.

At 1130, the pilot departed Green Island for The Pier with six passengers on board. There was light drizzle falling at the time but he assessed that conditions in the area were suitable for flight utilising external visual reference. The pilot again elected to track via the shipping channel. Clearance to enter the Cairns Control Zone was not immediately available because of other traffic, so the pilot conducted a number of orbits in the helicopter until he was issued with a clearance at about 1139 to track to The Pier via the shipping channel, not above 500 ft. The controllers advised the pilot that, within 7-9 km from The Pier, the cloud base was 800-1,000 ft, with some showers, and visibility less than 10 km.

As the pilot continued tracking along the shipping channel, using the channel beacons as track markers, he noticed that the weather conditions ahead were deteriorating. A short time later, he descended the helicopter to about 150 ft to keep the water surface in sight, and reduced speed. At about 1143, the controller cautioned the pilot that a para-sail was operating in the Cairns Harbour area. A short time later, the pilot received a request for his arrival time from the company's office at The Pier. He responded that he expected to arrive in 5 minutes.

The pilot later reported that by that time the weather conditions had deteriorated further, he was flying at 50 ft or less above the water in light to moderate rain and could no longer see any channel beacons. He selected the windscreen demister on as condensation had begun to form on the inside surface. He also armed the inflatable floats that were fitted to the skid-type landing gear.

At about 1146, the pilot asked the controller for directions to The Pier. The tower controller advised that The Pier was on a bearing of 205 degrees M, at a range of 1.5 NM (3 km). At about that time, in-flight visibility rapidly deteriorated to an extent where external visual cues were not available. The pilot, noticing that the altimeter was indicating 100 feet, placed the helicopter in a gentle descent in an attempt to keep the surface of the water in sight. The helicopter contacted the water a short time later and rolled inverted. The pilot and five passengers quickly escaped from the fuselage to the surface of the water. One passenger was trapped in the cabin for a number of minutes and did not survive the accident.

Sources:

ATSB Occurrence Nr. 199901009

Safety recommendations:

Safety recommendation R20000003 issued 7 February 2000 by ATSB


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
21-Jan-2008 10:00 ASN archive Added
09-Apr-2015 21:07 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Other fatalities, Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Damage, Narrative]

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