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Two helicopters involved in fatal Argentinean mid-air

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Two helicopters involved in fatal Argentinean mid-air

Old 10th Mar 2015, 16:18
  #21 (permalink)  
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Argentinian helicopter

I'm a television director who has often used helicopters in filming, including air to air. The director's job is to get the best shots possible, and often this means getting as close as possible. This conflicts with a helicopter pilot's job, which is to fly as required while making sure everyone is completely safe. BBC News - French sports stars killed in Argentina crash
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 17:05
  #22 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by Fox3WheresMyBanana View Post
If it were a briefed formation, it looks like the #2 climbed into the lead. Failure to maintain separation by the lower, rearward helicopter, who obviously had the responsibility to do so.
Fox, when I used to teach helicopter formation, wing was "stepped up" from lead.

RIP, very sad.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 17:12
  #23 (permalink)  
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Totally agree, second aircraft always either above or laterally offset from the lead.

Unfortunately this looks like a camera 'sweep' shot.

Edited to add: Many years ago a very experienced examiner warned me during my training that photography and filming would get me into the most trouble trying to get 'that shot' and always to take extra care during photo shoots. Very wise advice indeed.

Very sad. Condolences to all.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 17:58
  #24 (permalink)  
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It may be the directors job "to get the best shoots in the air by getting as close as possible" but this CANNOT "conflict with the pilot's job" whose primary and over riding responsibility is to ensure safety of flight.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 18:41
  #25 (permalink)  
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Therein lies a recurring problem with helicopter filming GT. The helicopter company want the prestigious contract that gives them media exposure so they try to accommodate the wishes of the producers. If this involves close formation flying then that is what they will push for. Unless the pilots are assertive, that pressure results in rushed, unbriefed formation flying by pilots who have little experience of it.

I am not suggesting that is what happened in this case but I have seen it time and time again.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 19:21
  #26 (permalink)  
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It will be interesting to see what was being recorded by any cameras on board.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 20:14
  #27 (permalink)  
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I'm a television director who has often used helicopters in filming, including air to air. The director's job is to get the best shots possible, and often this means getting as close as possible.
Just use a longer lens.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 21:00
  #28 (permalink)  
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From current evidence it is not possible to determine if they were shooting air to air from an open door.
Whilst it would not be unusual, we can't be sure yet if they were manouvering under the direction of the camera crew to perform for the ground or cockpit cameras.

French TV, amongst others, sometimes installs the front left seat backwards, when occupied this restricts the pilot view to the left.

(Outside of war zones) it is very rare for camera crew to be killed on the ground, for instance just one fatality in a decade in the usa. Yet under the stewardship of a highly regulated industry and usually flown by highly experienced mature commercial pilots we lose crew, year in year out shooting aerials.

The most common denominator in aerial filming accidents is not mechanical failure or genuine accident such as a bird strike, but pilots flying the shot directed by the TV crew.

In my view many of these accidents could have been avoided with more planning and better oversight of the flight.

In this case, two pilots, three celebrities, five foreign airborn tv crew, numerous cameras on the ground and in the air, two helicopters and up to three spoken languages, what could possibly go wrong?

If it transpires that either helicopter was under close direction of tv crew then the role of the production company in planning and managing the flight should be investigated. For their sake I hope one of the (reported) eighty TV crew was a designated aerial coordinator.

The production team have returned home, but with due respect and by means of illustrating the significant investment at play, had only a pilot, director and cameraman been killed the programm would have continued.

That's show business, where far too often, flights of fancy end in fatalities.

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Old 10th Mar 2015, 21:20
  #29 (permalink)  
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Just use a longer lens.
Longer lenses shake more and harder to focus.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 21:48
  #30 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by chopjock
Longer lenses shake more and harder to focus.
Oddly enough, so too does the disintegration of the aircraft.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 21:50
  #31 (permalink)  
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Pretty simple what happened.

Failed to maintain their own separation.

Blind spot to blind spot.

Higher machine can't see down and behind and the lower one cannot see up and left. Pilot in RH seat.

Sad operational fail.

PS Contrary to the statements preceding my guess is the tree is about 300 metres closer to the camera.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 21:54
  #32 (permalink)  
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One eyewitness:
David Ocampo said: "One of the helicopters sounded as if it was firing off shots or experiencing small explosions that were completely out of place.

There were about five metres between the two of them, but the one in front seemed to stop and that caught my attention. 'The other one smashed into it from behind with its propellor after trying to swerve to avoid it and fell to the ground and exploded. The earth shook when they fell.

I rushed towards it to see if there were any survivors but it was just a ball of flame. 'I couldn't see anything really, just smoke and the tail of one of the two helicopters between the bushes."
Moment helicopters carrying French Dropped stars smash into each other killing ten | Daily Mail Online

So perhaps the first helicopter had mechanical difficulty and the second ran into it. "Five metres between the two of them"? Unbelievably close.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 22:23
  #33 (permalink)  
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This video seems sharper than others I have seen.
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 22:25
  #34 (permalink)  
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Having just seen the footage again on the news I am wondering if it was birds. Possibly debris from a blade strike with the tree?
The eye witness report reports loud noises which could have been a blade strike.
The natural reaction would have been a rapid move away from the strike which would have taken it directly into the other aircraft.
A tragic accident no doubt partially attributed to the pressure of the TV role and wanting it to "Look Good"!

Having just watched DR link I now don't think it was a blade strike.

The far a/c seems to be turning right as the near one veers left.

Let's hope more information will be forthcoming so that a similar incident can be avoided!
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Old 10th Mar 2015, 23:26
  #35 (permalink)  
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How very very sad. And unavoidable too.
IMO I observe the lower a/c being below, back and to the right of the higher a/c. It then climbs and banks into the overtaken a/c. This is a blind spot (albeit transiently) for the lower pilot.
Nothing whatsoever to do with smoke, wind or birds. I would wager a years salary that the lower pilot lost SA. RiP.
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Old 11th Mar 2015, 03:39
  #36 (permalink)  
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Some basic aerial filming info for the non aviators interested in this sad incident.

There is a still image that shows the aircraft with the striped tail, with its left rear door fully open whilst at 5ft agl, apparently on take off and just a few minutes before the crash.
This indicates a cameraman in the back left seat, ready to film out of the open door.
Back left door is obviously not ideal for pilot's situational awareness if he is flying from front right..but for those that don't known, a sliding door is not always fitted on both sides.

This aircraft did not have a sliding door on the right (pilot) side.

It is pictured to the right of the other aircraft (the one with skid basket) both at time of take off and when airborne so it is reasonable to assume they were shooting.

Another reason to shoot out the left side is that the direction of travel can't always be controlled. Continuity of screen direction often dictates the aircraft must always be heading in the same direction i.e. left to right. Combined with wind direction and position of sun, it means the left hand side is the best option 50% of the time.
However for "jump in and go" flights, using cameramen who have been filming on the ground then jump into the helicopter, there is not enough time nor information to figure out which side is best.
Such flights that occupy a small time portion of a long shooting day, can be terribly pressured for pilot, director and cameramen, especially if the crew are running late.

IMO I observe the lower a/c being below, back and to the right of the higher a/c. It then climbs and banks into the overtaken a/c. This is a blind spot (albeit transiently) for the lower pilot.
I see something different... the higher aircraft seems to bank left into the path of the other aircraft, I reckon the (slightly) lower aircraft could have climbed maybe 50ft? in the two seconds before impact (use the tree as a datum point) Perhaps the plan was that the higher aircraft (filming out left door?) was to fly slightly ahead then over the subject aircraft? or in an attempt to shoot a tracking shot, the higher craft crept too close and the lower pilot didn't get out of the way in time and there was a miscommunication between the cameraman and pilots as to relative positions.

Hard to imagine that in the preceding 20 seconds that lower pilot was not aware of the others position? Whereas the higher aircraft would have been partially blind especially if camera crew were leaning into the open rear door and whoever was in the front seat also probably shooting or taking stills and blocking the view out of the left front.
(note it is not 100% clear yet which helicopter had the tv crew)

The higher aircraft appears to slow down, but this is the optical effect of the turn in my view.
Hard to be sure.

Generally the good form is that the subject aircraft stays straight and level and the camera ship manoeuvres around it.

Due to the high profile of some of those who perished and regardless of the cause, I hope that the unique risks of aerial filming will be bought to the fore and identified as an inherent risk that should be mitigated.

The crew who were killed were pilots Juan Carlos Castillo and Roberto Abate, Brice Gilbert (cameraman) Laurent Sbasnik (director), Lucy Mei-Dalby (journalist), Volodya Guinard (project manager) and Edouard Gilles (sound engineer)

Brice leaves behind his wife of two years and son of two months.


Last edited by mickjoebill; 11th Mar 2015 at 06:30.
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Old 11th Mar 2015, 07:26
  #37 (permalink)  
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That's sad reading, mickjoebill.

And shooting for (another stupid?) reality. Called "Dropped".

A few minutes after take-off, around 5pm on Monday, while the two helicopters were flying in parallel lines, one of them unexpectedly deviated from its course and collided with the other. The first helicopter was filming the second one which was transporting the cast. Amongst the victims, were the three sporting personalities (Florence Arthaud, Camille Muffat and Alexis Vastine), five technical crew members who have been collaborating with us on many productions (Laurent Sbasnik, Lucie Mei-Dalby, Volodia Guinard, Brice Guilbert and Edouard Gilles) and two highly experienced pilots (Juan Carlos Castillo and Roberto Abate).
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Old 11th Mar 2015, 09:00
  #38 (permalink)  
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And shooting for (another stupid?) reality. Called "Dropped".

A tragic and unnecessary loss of life of talented people seeking profit from the dumbing down of Western civilization.

Sometimes the world really does seem a depressing place.
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Old 11th Mar 2015, 09:22
  #39 (permalink)  
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Agreed. A terrible tragedy which could have been avoided.

Unfortunately, I also fear the backlash will be against helicopter operations and filming and not against the concept of reality TV.
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Old 11th Mar 2015, 12:08
  #40 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by chopjock View Post
Longer lenses shake more and harder to focus.
I guess your're not familiar with cameras, so:
- You have lots of light, so stop down the camera, making focus less sensitive
- Turn on the "truck mode" stabilisation on the lens. You have a stabilised lens, right ?
- Shoot 4kP60 and stabilise more in post [production]

- Make your shooting budget cover legal costs for dead talent, crew, and replacement talent/crew/helicopters
- Make sure the relevant jurisdictions don't open you to wearing an orange suit for a few years.
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