Report on air accident in Port of Bergen, Hordaland county, Norway, 10 May 2017 involving Airbus Helicopters AS 350 B3, G-HKCN
10 May 2017 a British registered helicopter of the type Airbus Helicopters AS 350 B3 with three persons on board was about to land on the helideck on a yacht, when the helicopter lost control and crashed into the sea.
The helicopter was equipped with flotation gear and floated upside down in the sea. One person was seriously injured and two persons got minor injuries. The investigation revealed a lack of follow-up of the described routines for preparation for helicopter operations on board the yacht. Among other things, the helideck was not adequately prepared.
A tarpaulin covering a fuel tank on the helideck was not adequately secured. The helicopter established hover over the helideck, and stood in low hover over the deck for approx. 15 seconds. During these seconds, the tarpaulin loosened due to the downdraft from the main rotor. The helicopter was flown by a pilot who had minimal experience on the helicopter type.
The person had not received any type rating in his pilot's license yet, since the skill test had occurred the day before the accident. When the tarpaulin came loose, the commander, who was a flight instructor, tried to manoeuvre the helicopter away from the tarpaulin. He was not able to do so since this happened very quickly. The damage sustained by the main rotor made the helicopter uncontrollable.
No safety recommendation is issued in connection with this investigation.
Some key points from the investigation from a helideck perspective:
If the yacht had been in commercial operation, it would have been subject to certification in accordance with Annex 6 of the Large Yacht Code or CAP 437 (Standards for offshore helicopter landing areas, Civil Aviation Authority UK). Annex 6 only covers the technical aspects of the landing area, and the operational circumstances would have been under the requirements for ISM certification.
In spite of the fact that it was not required from any authority, M/Y Bacarella nevertheless had a Helicopter Operations Manual on board. The procedures laid down in this manual to prepare for helicopter landings were not adhered to on the day of the accident. The newly employed first mate was not properly trained or briefed on the tasks and responsibilities in the role as HLO.
The manual's check list for preparing for helicopter operations says the following about loose items on the helideck:
Any loose items in the vicinity of the helideck must be secured immediately or reported to the HLO.
The yacht's master explained that he felt pressed for time to prepare the ship for the helicopter landing. He accepted to rush the preparation. As a result, several issues in the Helicopter Operations Manual were omitted.
The fire fighting equipment was not prepared for use on the helideck, and a safety tender was not set out.
Many lessons identified and hopefully learned:
Yacht owners / brokers are now beginning to reaslise that Private Ops may not be the best option, get your helideck and supporting infrastructure assessed by a credable organisation.
Gret having an Ops Manual, but do you use it to prop up the galley table or let it gather dust on the pretty bookshelf? An Ops manual is a living breathing document, use it, learn from it and develop it.
Was the HLO trained, if so when was the last time he operated aviation. Final checks prior to landing, if in doubt refer to the Ops manual.
Never feel pressurised to conduct flying ops if you feel something is not right. I know for me sitting at my office desk it is easy for me to say this, and I knwo first hand the pressure the team maybe under to rush, but please please when in these situations, stop and think of the consquences of your actions and decision making process.
What do you think was goiing through the mind of that HLO post the crash,?
NEVER EVER BE AFRAID TO SAY STOP!