Preliminary report details R22 helicopter accident flight near Koorda

  • Preliminary report details factual information established in the investigation’s early evidence collection phase;
  • About 5 minutes into the flight, the helicopter descended rapidly;
  • Engine examination did not identify any pre-existing defects that may have prevented the engine from operating normally [or providing power]

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released a preliminary report from its on-going investigation into a fatal helicopter accident near Koorda, Western Australia in early October.

On 2 October 2022, the two-seat Robinson R22 Beta helicopter, registered VH-RAS, was returning to Jandakot Airport from an airstrip at Koorda, in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt region, with a pilot and passenger on board.

When the helicopter did not arrive as expected, a search was coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the wreckage was located later that afternoon on a dry salt flat, about 13 km south-west of Koorda. The helicopter was destroyed and both occupants were fatally injured.

“Today’s preliminary report details factual information established in the investigation’s early evidence collection phase,” ATSB Director Transport Safety Stuart Macleod said.

“It has been prepared to provide timely information to the industry and public, and contains no analysis or findings, which will be detailed in the final report.”

The ATSB has so far examined the accident site and wreckage, interviewed witnesses, collected meteorological data, aircraft maintenance and pilot records, and obtained flight tracking data.

Flight tracking data showed the helicopter initially tracking in a stable south-westerly direction at about 1,700 ft above ground level. About 5 minutes into the flight, the altitude increased by about 100 ft, followed almost immediately by a rapid descent. The data stopped in the vicinity of the accident location, about 10 to 15 seconds after the commencement of the descent.

During the on-site phase of the investigation, transport safety investigators found the helicopter had collided with terrain inverted on a dry salt flat, on an easterly heading. The main rotor head, with blades attached, and the top portion of the mast, were located alongside the fuselage. One main rotor blade had fractured, with the outboard section located about 3 m from the main rotor assembly.

While the tail cone and tail rotor assembly were attached to the fuselage, the stabiliser assembly had separated and was located about 6 m from the tail cone. The auxiliary fuel bladder was intact, however the main bladder had ruptured due impact forces. There was no fire.

Mr Macleod said the helicopter’s engine was examined at a CASA-approved engine overhaul facility under the supervision of the ATSB, and did not identify any internal or external damage that prevented the engine from operating normally prior to the accident.

“As it progresses, the investigation will include further review and examination of pilot records and medical information, aircraft maintenance and flight records, recovered components and meteorological data.

“However, should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken.”

You can find here the preliminary report: AO-2022-045 – Collision with terrain involving Robinson R22, VH-RAS, 13 km south-west Koorda, Western Australia on 2 October 2022

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