The preliminary ATSB report said the pilots were practising emergency situations before crashing. (Supplied: ATSB)
A report on the helicopter crash which killed 57-year-old pilot Roger Corbin has revealed the chopper was performing a simulated hydraulic system failure before it nose-dived from around 30 feet.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is investigating the cause of the November 7 crash at Hobart Airport and is expected to release its findings towards the end of next year.
In a preliminary report today, the ATSB said Mr Corbin had been instructing his licensed co-pilot, 33-year-old John Osborne, on emergency procedures just before the crash.
It said the pair had been practising general helicopter handling and low-level flying before requesting air traffic control clearance to conduct practice emergencies next to the main airport runway at around 5:15pm.
“The approach to the airport reportedly involved conducting a simulated hydraulic system failure to the helicopter training area,” the report said.
“The instructor reportedly announced the simulated failure to the pilot just prior to commencing the approach.
“The pilot responded to the simulated failure by stabilising the helicopter and reducing the airspeed to about 60 knots, in accordance with the manufacturer’s hydraulic failure procedure detailed in the aircraft’s flight manual.”
A video camera recorded the helicopter’s final approach to the airport.
“As the helicopter descended toward training area X-Ray, it initially appeared to be controlled and in a flatter than normal approach profile.
“The helicopter then appeared to slow into a high hover about 30 feet above the ground. Seconds later, it commenced an abrupt nose-down turn to the left and impacted the ground.”
Mr Corbin died at the scene and Mr Osborne was admitted to hospital in a serious but stable condition, before being released a few days later.
The chopper nose-dived into the helicopter training area on the runway apron. (Supplied: ATSB)
Training manual warns of ‘possible loss of control’
The ATSB said the training section of the helicopter’s flight manual cautioned pilots against carrying out hover flight or low-speed manoeuvres without hydraulic pressure assistance.
“The intensity and direction of the control feedback forces will change rapidly,” the manual said.
“This will result in excessive pilot workload, poor aircraft control, and possible loss of control.”
The remainder of the investigation will focus on reviewing evidence gathered from the scene, the conduct of training operations and helicopter systems.
It will also consider any environmental influences which may have affected the helicopter’s operation at the time of the crash.
“Our job now is to continue to work through the analysis phase of the investigation to find out exactly what happened with the view to reducing the risk of it happening again,” said ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood.
Mr Corbin is credited with saving many lives, as Rotorlift holds the contract for Tasmania’s police search and rescue operations.
In 2007, he won the National Search and Rescue Award for his work in more than 700 rescue missions across Tasmania and its surrounding oceans, including the rescue of a solo Japanese sailor 120 nautical miles south-west of the state.
He was an experienced pilot and instructor with 14,000 flying hours in his 35 years of experience.
He was farewelled by about 1,000 people at a service held at Hobart’s Regatta Grounds.
Mr Osborne runs Osborne Aviation, which promotes itself as being available for charters for “forestry, mining, agricultural, utility and film work in some of the world’s most challenging operational environments”.
Roger Corbin’s daughters and wife Allana (R) watch as a helicopter with his casket prepares to take off for a farewell flight over Hobart. (ABC News: Ros Lehman)
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