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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 78943
Last updated: 21 October 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:SAF Helicopters
Registration: F-GJFJ
MSN: 4312
Fatalities:Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Terre Adélie -   Antarctica
Phase: En route
Nature:Passenger - Non-Scheduled/charter/Air Taxi
Departure airport:French research vessel L'Astrolabe
Destination airport:Dumont d'Urville Station
Investigating agency: BEA
A French helicopter has crashed in Antarctica during rough weather conditions. The helicopter was flying on behalf of the French Polar Institute (IPEV) and operated in Antarctica from the French research vessel, L'Astrolabe, which is currently icebound about 230 miles (370 kilometers) northeast of the Dumont-d'Urville station.

On 28 October 2010, the pilots of two helicopters operated by SAF HELICOPTERES were flying passengers and equipment from the Astrolabe ship to the Dumont d’Urville base in Adélie Land (Terre Adélie). These flights were undertaken following damage to the ship’s propeller, which caused the ship to halt its progress towards Dumont d’Urville. When the decision was made to undertake the flights, the meteorological conditions at the ship and at the base 207 NM away were good. The flying autonomy and performance of the helicopters were compatible with the flights planned.

The pilot of the two helicopters took off about 20 minutes apart. The pilot of the first helicopter encountered poor weather conditions when in cruise, which led him to decide to continue the flight at low altitude, sometimes below 200 ft, to remain under the cloud layer. The pilot of the second helicopter, registered F-GJFJ, initially decided to fly above this cloud layer, but then decided to turn around and also fly below the cloud layer. The pilot made two 360° turns at low speed and at a low height once below the cloud layer.

The helicopter collided with the surface of the pack ice. The last flight path data points recorded indicated a height of about 30 ft.

The investigation showed that the accident was caused by the pilot likely losing all external visual references, following his decision to undertake and continue the flight in unfavourable meteorological conditions, in a hostile environment that offered no or few alternatives to the plan of action. The specific context of the mission, the absence of operational documentation relating to operations in Adélie Land and SAF HELICOPTERES failure to submit part C of its operations manual to the oversight authority were factors contributing to the accident. The pilot having taken medication with sedative effect may have contributed to the accident.



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


Aerospatiale AS-350 B3 Ecureuil SAF Hélicoptères, LUX Luxembourg (Findel), Luxembourg PP1283013606

Revision history:

29-Oct-2010 15:04 gerard57 Added
29-Oct-2010 15:14 harro Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Departure airport, Narrative]
30-Oct-2010 03:03 chullian1819 Updated [Departure airport, Source]
30-Oct-2010 14:21 gerard57 Updated [Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
14-Jan-2011 00:02 Topaz Updated [Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source]
11-Jun-2012 12:27 harro Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
05-Aug-2014 22:29 Dr. John Smith Updated [Location, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
25-May-2015 20:38 Aerossurance Updated [Operator, Location, Nature, Source, Narrative]
12-Dec-2016 11:35 Aerossurance Updated [Aircraft type, Location]
12-Dec-2016 11:35 Aerossurance Updated [Aircraft type]
28-Oct-2018 09:57 Aerossurance Updated [Source]

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