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Wollongong fatal crash March 2013

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Wollongong fatal crash March 2013

Old 21st Mar 2013, 03:11
  #1 (permalink)  
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Unhappy Wollongong fatal crash March 2013

Sydney Morning Herald

Four people have been killed in a helicopter crash at Bulli Tops in Wollongong’s northern suburbs.
Police, paramedics and firefighters are heading to Panorama House where the helicopter crashed just after midday.
A NSW Ambulance spokesman would only say there were "multiple" fatalities, however Fairfax Media understands four people have died.
Panorama House is a function centre set on a cliff overlooking the Illawarra, and is a popular wedding location.

The chopper that crashed is believed to have been carrying a wedding party. One of those killed is believed to be a child.
The helicopter burst into flames when it crashed into a grassed clearing outside Panorama House, police said.
There are no survivors.
A crime scene has been set up at Panorama House and police have launched an investigation into the incident.
The Robinson R44 helicopter is registered to Bankstown Helicopters.
A spokeswoman at the company's headquarters said no one was immediately available for comment.
Bulli man Norm Upton was driving home from Sydney when he saw the helicopter engulfed in flames.

He told the Illawarra Mercury he was travelling south along Mount Ousley and saw the helicopter on its side.

‘‘I was about 200 yards away and I saw people running around,’’ he said.

‘‘It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to see on my way back.’’
Police said a report would be prepared for the coroner.
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Old 21st Mar 2013, 04:39
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What an absolute shocker. Not part of a wedding party now being reported but either way it doesn't really matter does it.

Bladders I wonder?

VH-HWQ | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Private pilot, privately hired, clipped trees, flipped over and burnt. Apparently as reported.

Last edited by VH-XXX; 21st Mar 2013 at 05:11.
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Old 21st Mar 2013, 05:55
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Updates: No kid on board, Not part of wedding party.

Four dead in helicopter crash near Bulli Tops, south of Sydney | News.com.au

But still very tragic
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Old 21st Mar 2013, 06:44
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From News Ltd:

FOUR people have been killed in a helicopter crash south of Sydney just after midday today.
Police have confirmed four adults have been killed in a chopper crash at Bulli Tops, correcting earlier reports that a child was among those killed.
The helicopter crashed into a grassy clearing adjacent to Panorama House - a popular wedding and function centre located on the cliffs at Bulli Tops.
Acting Superintendent Tim Beattie said disaster victims experts will be brought in to identify the bodies in the burnt out wreck.
"It's an horrific scene...this helicopter appears to have collided heavily with the ground," Supt Beattie said.
The helicopter exploded into flames during the crash and was lying on its right side, facing east, with a tarpaulin covering the charred cabin.
The tail rotor blade and stabiliser became detached and were found lying next to the helicopter tail.

The pilot and occupants were en route to Panorama House for lunch, when the accident happened at 12.12pm.
The crash happened in good flying conditions with clear skies and winds at about 10-15 knots.
Police said the four deceased people were not part of a wedding party, as previously reported.
They had flown from Bankstown Airport earlier today.
Investigators believe the helicopter clipped treetops, flipped over and exploded as it was coming into land in a clearing adjacent to Panorama House.
Witness Norm Upton was approaching Bulli Tops and noticed a plume of black smoke.
"I looked over and saw a helicopter on its side. It's fuselage was still intact but it was shouldering," Mr Upton said.
"Then I saw two men running towards it, and I knew straight away it must have been bad."

Emergency services raced to the site of the crash at around midday.
The helicopter involved in the crash registered to Bankstown Helicopters.
The company's Chief Pilot William Miller confirmed the Robinson R44 VH-HWQ had been hired out to a private pilot who was conducting 'private operations'."
'At this time Bankstown Helicopters is unable to comment further as to the circumstances leading to the accident, or the condition of the occupants," he said in a written statement.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau says it has deployed a team of four investigators to the Bulli Tops crash scene to begin the on-site phase of its investigation.
A fatal crash on the south coast in February last year involving the same model of helicopter which claimed the lives of two men was also subject of an ATSB investigation.
In the wake of that inquiry the Bureau advised owners and operators of R44 helicopters to fit bladder-type fuel tanks saying there was a danger of fire from aluminium fuel tanks in the event of an accident.
A woman at the Cliffhanger Café at Bulli Tops said she was first alerted to the tragedy by the sounds of ambulance and emergency services sirens.
“We're about 500 metres away with a lot of trees in between…the first we knew was lots and lots of sirens going past," she said.
More to come.

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Old 21st Mar 2013, 16:06
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Very sad to hear of another "bladder tanks could have made difference" mishap.

Regardless of some gust, not the best choice of approach/direction, wrong wind assessment/LTE, pilot's experience or whatever combination led to this.

It's easy to make mistakes flying helicopters and most likely low time pilot getting some hours towards commercial or enough R44 PIC time for jobs later on.

How many more crashes like these, to have bladder tanks compulsory on all R44s worldwide, no exceptions, soon as? The rotor brake switch probably saved some lives, but... I thought ATSB, NTSB, AAIB etc are there to ensure improved safety based on accident investigations, yet we don't see much happening. Is it RHC's lobbying in place again?

Food for thought: http://www.casa.gov.au/wcmswr/_asset...awb/28/012.pdf
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Old 21st Mar 2013, 21:45
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So surely by now someone must be able to tell us if a bladder was installed?

It's an important point.
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Old 21st Mar 2013, 22:21
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Service Bulletin (SB) 78B, which specifies the requirements for the installation of the modified fuel tanks, with a compliance date of April 2013.
There is a date. The SB actually states end of April from memory.
As the above states, if an operator is using the RHC maintenance schedule, then the SB has all of the teeth it needs.
The original SB for this gave a complete by date of end of next year I believe and it keeps getting reduced by RHC. Under pressure of course.
I'm also not sure if an AD can be issued if a SB is in existence, better people on here can answer that one. It would be an ICAO thing, I'm sure.

Last edited by CYHeli; 21st Mar 2013 at 23:50. Reason: iPad fat fingers
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Old 21st Mar 2013, 22:41
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Very sad and condolences to the familys, about a 22 min flight from Bankstown so possibly 160lts of fuel and four people. That's enough for a 44.
Bankstown helicopters are such a professional outfit I would be surprised if this aircraft under there ops( but owned by an other party) didn't have the tanks done. If they didn't that might be a worry, if they were done then that's a worry in that it didn't seem to help much. All considered there will be a lot of questions about this one.
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Old 22nd Mar 2013, 00:04
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I am advised that HWQ was not fitted with the new fuel bags, although apparently the machine was due to be fitted with these quite soon.

Regardless, it's a very sad situation for the heli community.

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Old 22nd Mar 2013, 02:44
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since every 'issue patch' to imperfections of design, manufacturing/parts material quality etc of RHC is financial/time burden of the owner/operator as it looks to me from various issues with blades delam/corrosion/fuel tanks etc, fitting the tanks is costly enough both purchase, downtime and labour to make it 'not sensible' from purely financial point of view without any bigger maintenance on the machine.

I'm not so familiar with Australia/CASA differences to FAA/USA, but the (incidentally) last year crash, also fairly survivable, ended up pretty much same, which 'prompted' the 1yr earlier deadline on R44s all having bladder tanks. I added the link after brief search just today for illustration to those who haven't followed it in the past.

Why wouldn't FAA, EASA or other agency/authority be able to issue AD? SBs are just CYA from RHC's side (pre-emptying the AD to avoid mass demand). Obviously not enough people die and tanks rupture during a crash/rollover. There is track record of survivable crashes with fires killing people, so in view of many, it meets the condition of 'known safety deficiency' as reason to issue AD.

Helicopter manufacturer knew of fatal design flaw, say US lawyers (Another quick search for the last year's crash. Make your own opinion)

Last edited by MartinCh; 22nd Mar 2013 at 02:48.
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Old 22nd Mar 2013, 05:45
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I was surprised this morning when the TV news said " it was pilot error but will be investigated". It may well be pilot error but I think it is unusual for a TV station to announce that so soon after the tragic accident.
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Old 22nd Mar 2013, 06:34
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TV coverage.

For all the offsite experts here's one of the better news stories. Just leave the sound off and consider the pictures.
4 adults killed in fiery NSW chopper crash - Yahoo!7

Another very sad day for the industry.
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Old 22nd Mar 2013, 13:34
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Tragic accident indeed.

I have a 1937 autobiography by Jim Mollison where he describes that the first thing he did after acquiring any British made plane was change the overhead fuel tank from aluminium to tin. This was prompted after he witnessed a number of pilots survive a hard landing only to be burnt alive because the aluminium fuel tanks ruptured too easily when the flimsy landing gear on those airplanes of that era collapsed. This was back in the days before WWI

The proximity of an avgas fuel tank to passengers and to the engine on an R44 should at least require a secondary saftey system such as a fuel bags.
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Old 22nd Mar 2013, 14:09
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Bladder Tanks (R22????)

I think there is another salient point here, the R22 has a very similiar design, what do we think about Bladder tanks for the R22 (weight penalty/ range penalty).
The next question for RHC is if they expect an AD for the R44 is the design and testing process under way for the R22 as surely being a VERY similar design one may reasonably expect the 22 to be encompassed within the same AD.
There was an accident in Houston last year in an R22 that looked like a very hard low speed impact (Vortex Ring possibly) followed by a post crash fire that unfortunately killed both occupants (was it survivable without the fire I dont know).

Last edited by anti-talk; 22nd Mar 2013 at 14:12.
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Old 22nd Mar 2013, 14:54
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Anti-talk. Yes, a bladder tank modification will be fitted to the R22. D
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Old 22nd Mar 2013, 15:29
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Interesting, any idea of when they will be available for the 22, surely that will coordinate with the AD coming active in the R44
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Old 22nd Mar 2013, 15:34
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The R22 bladder tank will appear in production aircraft by mid-2013. No word yet on the retrofit schedule.

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Old 22nd Mar 2013, 23:05
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Its possible that even if the aircraft was fitted with the new tanks that this tragic accident would still have ended in disaster...

It looks like the aircraft hit trees and then fell to the ground...

The cause of the accident wasn't the fire, it was a result of the aircraft colliding with trees on approach.

A collision with trees at that height in any aircraft would be life threatening.
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Old 23rd Mar 2013, 01:37
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If the aircraft spills fuel and burns as a result of an impact, is that fire not part of the impact? Therefore does the propensity of the aircraft to burn, directly impact on the certification requirements as to survivability of the occupants in the event of an accident?

Accidents happen, that's why we train. Accidents happen at sea, that's why we have HUET courses. They shouldn't, nobody plans to have an accident, but they do occur. The skids are designed to spread to take an impact, It improves survivability. Seat belts are mandatory.

Bladders are designed to reduce fuel spill, since it is a known issue, is enough being done to protect life?
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Old 23rd Mar 2013, 06:23
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No CYHeli enough isn't being done to protect life. These helicopters are cheap and allow many people to gain a "license" without the skills that were taught years ago. They come apart in the air or crash due to "pilots" simple running out of ideas and are just along for the ride for the last few seconds. You get what you pay for and lots of buyers didn't want to pay for the fire proof systems. Do blame the certification regs. These helicopters are the Ladas of the helicopter industry.
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