A high-performance aerobatic aircraft crashed into the back of a Guimbal Cabri G2 helicopter hovering over a runway in the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, in September 2020.
The incident saw the two-seater Extra EA-300’s propeller collide with the helicopter’s fuselage and the G2’s landing pad in turn puncture the aircraft’s fuel tank. None of the three pilots involved was injured.
An ATSB investigation concluded that the Extra’s nose-up attitude on landing obscured the hovering helicopter until immediately before the crash, meaning those on board did not were unable to take avoidance measures.
“The ATSB discovered that the pilots of the Extra did not expect the helicopter to join the 1,000 foot circuit and did not assimilate the radio calls from the helicopter pilot into their mental models. operations underway at the airport, “said the director of transport security at the ATSB. , Stuart Macleod. “As a result, they didn’t know the helicopter was ahead of them in the circuit.”
The organization said the incident highlights the importance of pilots knowing the circuit procedures for different types of aircraft.
On September 18, 2020, a two-seater Extra EA-300, VH-EXR, with two experienced pilots on board was conducting circuits at 1,000 feet (above airport altitude) at Caloundra Airport, a towerless airport where planes self-separate from one to the other using radio calls on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF).
The captain was in the front seat of the Extra and was on a rear pilot check flight.
A two-seater Guimbal Cabri G2 helicopter, VH-LTO, with a solo student pilot on board on a navigation exercise flight from Redcliffe, joined the circuit in front of the Extra and performed a stop-and-go on the runway in service.
The Extra landed on the runway behind it and, during the landing roll, collided with the rear of the hovering helicopter, causing significant damage to both aircraft. The helicopter sustained several propeller impacts under the cabin and the separation of its right landing pad.
The Extra’s wooden propeller was destroyed by impact with the helicopter’s fuselage and landing pad, which punctured the Extra’s right wing fuel tank. Fortunately, there were no injuries.
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The ATSB also identified that, on the last leg of the circuit, the Extra pilots were concentrated on a third aircraft in the circuit, which was in front of the helicopter, and with which they were in radio communication.
“As the pilots visually scanned the runway before landing, they were unaware of the helicopter’s presence, and they perceived another aircraft to be next in front of them in the circuit, which caused them to prevented from seeing the helicopter and from continuing the approach to the runway, âsaid Macleod.
In addition, the nose-down attitude of the Extra tail sled during landing obscured the hovering helicopter until immediately before the collision.
During interviews with the ATSB, the pilot seated in the back reported that he expected helicopters to generally stay clear of circuit traffic and that he had never seen any helicopters fly over the runways, while the pilot seated in the front noted that the helicopters regularly approached Caloundra, but most stayed clear of the circuit.
Macleod said the crash highlights the importance for pilots of knowing circuit procedures for different types of aircraft at towerless airports, including helicopters.
“A helicopter performing a stop-and-go will generally need a lot longer to clear the runway, compared to an aircraft performing a touch-and-go,” he said.
âAround the CTAF and uncontrolled airports, it is possible for planes and helicopters to perform movements that might not be considered routine. This investigation highlights that several options are available for helicopters at towerless airports, including the 1000 foot active circuit. “
Although not a factor in this event, due to the speed of the Extra, it could be classified as a high performance aircraft, as it is capable of a tailwind speed in excess of 150 kt, which allows him to perform a circuit at 1,500 feet.
“All pilots are reminded that the circuit height of 1,500 feet is not just limited to scheduled passenger transport and turbine-powered aircraft,” Macleod said.
Safety around towerless airports is one of the ATSB’s eight âMost Wantedâ safety priorities as part of the SafetyWatch initiative.
“The alerts provided by radio broadcasts at towerless airports such as Caloundra greatly aid the process of observing traffic that could be a risk of collision,” Macleod noted.
“This accident reinforces the fact that, even for experienced pilots, visual identification of unknown traffic is difficult.”
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