No pre-existing deficiencies in Bell 206 in fatal crash – Australian Aviation

Click to enlarge: VH-PHP route through Williamtown VFR Route D589A

A preliminary report on the fatal crash of a Bell 206 JetRanger west of Newcastle last month has revealed the aircraft had no pre-existing defects.

The ATSB said its investigation will next look at the helicopter’s maintenance documentation, as well as the pilot’s medical records, qualifications and experience.

The incident killed one man – who has yet to be publicly identified – and saw the five-seat Bell 206 roll before descending and crashing into a riverbank near Maitland.

“Today’s preliminary report contains factual information identified in the early evidence gathering phase of the investigation,” said Stuart Macleod, director of transportation security at the ATSB.

“It was prepared to provide timely information to the industry and the public and does not contain any analysis or insights that will be detailed in the final report.”

The ATSB investigation shows how the pilot and sole occupant of a single-engine, five-seat Bell 206 JetRanger, VH-PHP, operated a ferry flight from northern New South Wales to Warnerval on the Central Coast on October 6, 2022.

About two and a half hours after the flight, the helicopter crashed to the ground and came to rest on a muddy river plain east of Maitland. The pilot was killed and the helicopter destroyed.

ATSB investigators visited the scene and conducted an initial on-site assessment of the aircraft before moving it to higher ground for further investigation due to rising water levels.

The preliminary report notes recorded data that indicated the pilot was following the Inland Visual Flight Rules (VFR) trail west of Williamtown Airport as the aircraft began to climb on the approach to Tocal and made a 180-degree turn to the right performed.

“The data showed that over the next 20 minutes the helicopter made a series of turns, a climb to 3,100 feet and a descent to about 120 feet above the ground, exiting and re-entering the VFR track multiple times,” Macleod said.

“It was then observed by six witnesses who reported that it was heading towards the Hunter River, banked slightly and possibly initiated a turn when it rolled significantly and rapidly descended and collided with the river bank.”

ATSB investigators were able to account for all major aircraft components at the accident site, and examination of the aircraft’s flight controls, powerplant, and structure revealed no pre-existing deficiencies.

Bureau of Meteorology data for Maitland Airport reported 8 kt winds with scattered clouds at 4,000 ft and 4,500 ft and overcast clouds at 7,800 ft over the airport 15 minutes prior to the accident.

“To date, the ATSB has assessed the wreck, interviewed witnesses and collected external data sources relating to weather, air traffic and flight tracking,” Mr Macleod said.

“In the future, the investigation will be a further review and investigation of aircraft maintenance documentation and operational records, recorded data,

Weather information, air traffic communications and the pilot’s medical records, qualifications and experience.’

Upon completion of the investigation, a final report will be published.

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

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