Accident Bell 206A JetRanger VH-PHP, 06 Oct 2022
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 290068
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Time:c. 16:20
Type:Silhouette image of generic B06 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Bell 206A JetRanger
Owner/operator:Australian Native Landscapes Pty Ltd
Registration: VH-PHP
MSN: 607
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:6 km ENE of Maitland Airport, NSW -   Australia
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Casino, NSW
Destination airport:Warnervale, NSW
Investigating agency: ATSB
Confidence Rating: Information verified through data from accident investigation authorities
About 1350 local time on 6 October 2022, the pilot of a Bell 206 JetRanger helicopter, registered VH-PHP, departed Casino Airport, New South Wales for a ferry flight to Warnervale, New South Wales. The helicopter was in the process of being returned to its owner after a long‑term repair to correct hail damage and exchange life‑expired items. The pilot was the only person onboard. The aircraft tracked south-south-west, approximately 30-60 km inland of the coast.

Recorded data indicated that at tracking point Wirradgurie, the pilot followed the inland visual flight rules (VFR) route west of Williamtown Airport through restricted areas R583B and R578E. The VFR lane, designated D589B and D598A, is a 2-3 NM wide corridor under the restricted airspace from ground level to 2,500 ft above mean sea level (AMSL) and ground level to 1,600 ft AMSL, respectively. The VFR lane enables pilots to visually fly under the restricted airspace without requiring permission or monitoring by Williamtown airspace controllers. The VFR route follows the east coast rail line where it passes through the mountainous region between Gloucester and Maitland.

At 1547 approaching Dungog, the pilot received a telephone call from a relative enquiring as to their progress. The pilot reported the aircraft was flying well, operations were normal, and they were 5 minutes from Maitland and 20 minutes from Warnervale.

At 1556 approaching Tocal, approximately 4 NM from the end of the lane, the aircraft started to climb and then conducted a right 180° turn to backtrack northbound. After approximately 2 minutes the helicopter transitioned through the upper limit of the VFR lane and continued climbing to 3,100 ft. The helicopter then descended to 1,100 ft, back into D598A and continued to follow the lane northbound until Hilldale when the aircraft again made a right turn. This time the pilot flew outside the lateral bounds of the lane by conducting a gradual climbing orbit around a hill before crossing from the east to the west of the lane, reaching 2,900 ft during the transition.

The helicopter then descended over the town of Vacy, flying as low as 120 ft above ground level (AGL) before climbing and heading south. The aircraft then descended to low levels travelling parallel to, but just outside, the VFR lane western boundary until it exited the southern border of R578E at Maitland Vale.

At approximately 1616, the helicopter cleared a ridge by approximately 200 ft and descended gradually toward the Hunter River.

After clearing the ridge, the helicopter was observed by 6 witnesses. Common features of these reports were that the helicopter was heading towards the river, descending slightly, possibly initiating a turn when the helicopter rolled markedly and descended rapidly, colliding with the riverbank. The aircraft came to rest on a muddy river flat approximately 2 m from, and 0.5 m above, the water’s edge. The helicopter was destroyed, and the pilot was fatally injured.

The accident helicopter was a Bell 206 manufactured in 1970 as an 206A model. The helicopter was first registered in Australia in May 1986. In 1988, the helicopter was rebuilt and converted to a 206B model with fitment of a Rolls Royce/Allison 250-C20 turboshaft engine and the associated uprated transmission, rotor head and other changes.

A maintenance test flight associated with the replacement of components was conducted in Casino the day before the accident flight.

An initial assessment of the aircraft was conducted in situ after which, due to rising river levels, the wreckage was moved to higher ground and the principal components were moved to a secure location for further examination.

All major aircraft components were accounted for at the accident site. Examination of the aircraft’s flight controls, engine and aircraft structure did not identify any pre-existing defects. Fuel was found spilled at the accident site and fuel in the fuel filter bowl showed no evidence of contamination with water. Multiple sources of evidence indicating engine rotation at impact were identified.

The helicopter struck a tree on the riverbank, prior to impacting the ground. The tree and wreckage damage indicated the helicopter impacted the ground at approximately 80° right angle of bank and 60° nose down pitch.

Several aircraft components were retained by the ATSB for further detailed analysis.

At 1600 the Bureau of Meteorology Meteorological Terminal Air Report (METAR) for Maitland Airport reported 8 kt of wind with scattered cloud at 4,000 ft and 4,500 ft and overcast cloud at 7,800 ft above the airport.

Witnesses reported the weather at the time and location of the accident to be a mid to high level overcast cloud with no rain. A retired airline pilot reported that the ’Weather was suitable for VFR. A general base layer at 5,000 ft. Scattered cloud with patches to the South’.

The pilot held a Commercial Pilot Licence (helicopter), a valid Class 1 Medical Certificate, a valid flight review, and a low-level helicopter rating.

Sources: (photo)


Revision history:

06-Oct-2022 07:45 gerard57 Added
06-Oct-2022 09:17 RobertMB Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Registration, Cn, Operator, Location, Source, Narrative]
06-Oct-2022 10:38 Aerossurance Updated [Phase, Nature, Narrative]
06-Oct-2022 10:49 Aerossurance Updated [Embed code]
07-Oct-2022 07:42 RobertMB Updated [Phase, Nature, Departure airport, Source, Embed code]
18-Nov-2022 16:05 Captain Adam Updated [Location, Nature, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

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