30 Jun 2021

Helicopter pilot involved in fatal crash 'lacked training'

3:02 pm on 30 June 2021

An investigation into a 2018 fatal helicopter crash has found the pilot lacked training and there was a mystery fuel control fault.

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A helicopter crashed, killing one person and injuring four others, in the Kaimanawa Ranges in 2018. Photo: Supplied

The aircraft, owned by Helicopter Hawke's Bay, was surveying crops on Ngāmatea station in the Kaimanawa Ranges when it crashed and one person died on 14 June 2018.

Two people, including the pilot, were seriously injured, while two other passengers suffered minor injuries.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission found the helicopter's engine control unit had detected faults and automatically switched to a backup mode with fixed fuel flow.

When the pilot tried to get more power, the engine did not respond.

The pilot made an emergency landing, but the helicopter struck the ground heavily, became airborne again, and hit the ground again.

The helicopter remained upright with the engine driving a broken main rotor, which caused severe shaking.

An unknown fault caused the automated system that controlled engine power to fail, the commission said.

The fault was intermittent, so although it had occurred before, the company was unable to rectify it.

The commission called for improvements in pilot training, so pilots were more prepared to deal with the risks presented by particular helicopters.

"The way to deal with this sort of engine control unit failure was for the pilot to switch to manual throttle," said the commission's chief accident investigator, Harald Hendel.

"The manufacturer's formal training includes flying with manual throttle, but the pilot did not receive such training in New Zealand, so it's likely the pilot misunderstood manual mode and emergency procedures and was reluctant to select manual mode."

The commission also recommended promoting awareness of the benefits of people wearing helmets in some aircraft.

No one onboard wore helmets, probably because the operator did not have a formal policy on it, the report said.

Since the accident, the company has implemented a policy for pilots to wear helmets on all flights.

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