Helicopter faced heavy cloud before crash that killed five, report reveals
Posted On May 12, 2022
A Victorian helicopter crashed killing five people after hitting a large tree trunk while travelling through heavy clouds, a preliminary report into the tragedy has revealed.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has just released its first findings from an ongoing investigation into the fatal helicopter accident at Mt Disappointment, Victoria on the morning of April 31.
The helicopter hit the ground about 250 metres south of the last point where it was recorded at, before the helicopter was overcome by fire, the report outlines.
“However, investigators found no evidence of any pre-existing defects that would have affected the helicopter’s operation,” the report states.
Instead, it indicates flying conditions may have led to the crash.
The Microflite helicopter that crashed was flying in tandem with a second helicopter from Melbourne to Ulupna when it crashed while flying over Mt Disappointment.
The helicopters were flying between a later of “scattered” cloud – meaning cloud is covering between a quarter and half of the sky – and a layer of “broken” cloud – meaning cloud is covering more than half to all of the sky – before the incident occurred.
“As they approached Mt Disappointment, the pilot of the first helicopter noted the layer of cloud below was rising and becoming broken, while the base of the cloud above appeared to be lowering, resulting in the clouds appearing to converge ahead of them,” ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said.
“The pilot reported they were then confronted with a ‘wall of cloud’ in front, and to the left and right of their track, and broadcast to the other pilot their intention to turn around.”
The pilot of the first helicopter has told investigators the pilot of the second helicopter, which was trailing about three kilometres behind, may have been confused by this broadcast.
The pilot of the first helicopter then broadcast “U-turn, U-turn, U-turn” to the second pilot, and sharply turned left onto a southerly track.
About 30 seconds later, while travelling south at 1112 metres up, the pilot and passengers on board the first helicopter saw the second helicopter pass below and to the left of them at about 1066m up, continuing in a northerly direction.
This was the last visual contact they had with the second helicopter.
“A short time later, before the collision with terrain, flight track data showed the second helicopter in a left descending turn,” Mr Mitchell said.
The ATSB is still analysing data gathered from the helicopter that crashed and will give analysis and findings on the crash in a final report.
Since ATSB release the report this morning, the helicopter company Microflite has released a statement stating its commitment to helping with the investigation.
“Our thoughts continue to remain with the families and loved ones of those impacted by this terrible tragedy,” the statement also reads.