Birdstrike and in-flight break-up involving a Bell 206L-1, registered VH-ZMF, near Maroota, NSW, on 9 July 2022

Birdstrike and in-flight break-up involving a Bell 206L-1, registered VH-ZMF, near Maroota, NSW, on 9 July 2022

May 12, 2023 News by Gary Searing

Executive summary

What happened

On the morning of 9 July 2022, a Bell 206 L-1, registered VH-ZMF departed a private helipad at Cattai, NSW for a private flight. About 9 minutes later, the helicopter impacted terrain about 10 km to the north of the departure point. The helicopter was destroyed, and the pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that shortly after crossing Dargle Ridge at about 500 ft above the ground and while approaching the Richmond airspace control boundary, a wedgetail eagle impacted the helicopter just below the front left windscreen. It was unlikely that the pilot saw or had time to avoid the wedgetail eagle due to sun glare and a required radio frequency change.

The pilot was likely startled and initiated abrupt control inputs leading to the main rotor severing the tail boom. This led to an inflight break-up of the airframe and collision with terrain.

Safety message

Birdstrike is sometimes an unavoidable and relatively common hazard for all aviation operations, one which is more prevalent at lower altitudes. Pilots are reminded that sound lookout and visual scanning processes, as well as avoidance of low-level flight and expected areas of large concentrations of birds are key to reducing the likelihood of birdstrike.

Maintaining effective lookout and taking steps to remove, reduce or eliminate reduced visual effectiveness will assist in maintaining better situational awareness in-flight, and also assist in providing better outcomes to see-and-avoid not only birds, but other airspace users.

This is a summary of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s report on the accident. The full report can be found in the Gary F. Searing E-library (in Zotero). To access the library go here: https://canadianbirdstrike.ca/library/