Safety is improved at airport after collision

The incident took place at Cumbernauld Airport in May
The incident took place at Cumbernauld Airport in May

A number of changes have been made to improve safety at Cumbernauld Airport after a collision between two helicopters took place earlier this year.

The incident saw a Robinson R44 helicopter hit another of the same model back in May.

According to a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), after lifting to a hover, the pilot of Robinson R44, G-CTFL reversed his helicopter, unaware that a second Robinson R44, G-HYND, had landed behind his position and was being shut down.

One of G-HYND’s rotor blades collided with G-CTFL’s engine housing, startling the pilot of G-CTFL, with the result that he lost control, and the helicopter struck the ground several times before coming to rest in a tail-down attitude, next to a parked Robinson R22

G-CTFL was carrying two passengers for a lesson, while G-HYND was carrying three passengers who had been on a sightseeing trip – fortunately there were no injuries as a result of the incident.

The AAIB said the pilot of G-CTFL was not alerted that G-HYND had parked on grass behind him and felt he was restricted by other aircraft on the field, including an R22 helicopter.

It is likely that the pilot of G-CTFL was startled by the unexpected collision which impaired his ability to comprehend the situation and also his psychomotor skills, leading to his loss of control and the tail of the G-CTFL helicopter struck the ground.

As a result of the accident, the following safety actions have been taken by the helicopter operator:

The northern helipad was extended eastwards by 12 metres, so a parked helicopter is further from the apron, leaving space for other helicopters to move between the parked helicopter and the apron;

The prepared grass area east of the helipads has been extended, to ensure helicopters parked there can remain well clear of the pads;

A mirror has been placed at the corner of the hangar, to assist pilots using either helipad see any activity to their rear;

The helicopter operator no longer permits helicopters to reverse from the helipads;

The helicopter operator’s safety team is due to review the procedure for turning off the avionics systems while a Robinson R44 is being shut down.

A review of the RFFS response to this accident has led to several changes being instigated.

These are intended to ensure that two appropriately trained employees are available, on the ground, at all times there is helicopter activity and that fire-fighting equipment can be readily accessed by these employees.

The AAIB said: “Scrutiny of the airport’s emergency procedures following this accident highlighted some ambiguities and the operator undertook to review and revise the relevant guidance as necessary.”