Wirestrike Accident Robinson R44 Astro VH-AIC, Wednesday 12 February 2003
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Date:Wednesday 12 February 2003
Type:Silhouette image of generic R44 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Robinson R44 Astro
Registration: VH-AIC
MSN: 0063
Year of manufacture:1994
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:4 km NNE Mareeba Aerodrome, QLD -   Australia
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Shipwreck Bay, Queensland
Destination airport:Mareeba Aerodrome, Mareeba, Queensland (YMBA)
Confidence Rating: Information verified through data from accident investigation authorities
On 12 February, 2003, at about 13:30 local time (AEST), a Robinson Helicopter Company R44, registration VH-AIC, was destroyed following an attempted auto rotation at the Mareeba Aerodrome, Mareeba, Queensland, Australia. At approximate Coordinates 17°04′09″S 145°25′09″E).

The Robinson R44 helicopter departed from Shipwreck Bay, Queensland at about 12:45 AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time) on the final leg of a charter flight to Mareeba aerodrome. The pilot intended to track directly to Mareeba aerodrome under the Visual Flight Rules, with an expected en-route flight time of about 45 minutes. The pilot did not submit a flight plan to Airservices Australia, nor was a flight plan required, but the company retained a flight notification form for search and rescue purposes.

At about 1 nautical mile to the south of Mareeba township, at a cruise altitude of 1,000 feet and an indicated airspeed of about 95 knots, the pilot heard an unusual noise associated with the main rotor blades. The pilot reported that the noise sounded as though a potato chip packet had been caught in the blades and a violent vibration occurred in conjunction with the unusual noise.

The pilot was unable to identify or read the aircraft instruments because of the vibration and was unable to adequately control main rotor RPM after the onset of that vibration.

The violent vibration necessitated a landing. The pilot entered auto-rotation and selected a paddock for the forced landing. He reported that the helicopter was difficult to control during the descent. In particular, he was unable to turn the helicopter with left and right cyclic inputs. In particular, while cyclic inputs altered the attitude of the helicopter left and right it would not turn in the selected direction. The pilot also reported that it was difficult to control main rotor RPM during the auto-rotative descent and he relied upon the low rotor RPM horn and light as an indication of rotor RPM. The horn and light activated intermittently during the descent.

During the descent, the helicopter struck power lines and was substantially damaged. The pilot reported that he was unable to avoid the power lines because of the ineffective cyclic inputs. The pilot and passenger, the only occupants, suffered minor injuries.

A report from the accident site indicated significant main rotor blade skin disbonding 60 mm from the tip and extending 1070 mm inboard on one blade and the beginning of skin disbonding on the other blade. The ATSB conducted a preliminary investigation and it was apparent that the problem was a continuing airworthiness matter. ATSB released the main rotor blades to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for further examination as part of an airworthiness investigation.

CASA subsequently issued Airworthiness Directive AD/R44/18 - Main Rotor Blades (Robinson R44 Series Helicopters) effective 3 March 2003. That AD directed operators of Robinson R44 Series helicopters to visually inspect and test main rotor blades' upper and lower skin-to-spar seams for evidence of disbonding of the laminate structure. Any blades that showed evidence of disbonding were to be removed from service. The AD requires the carriage of the AD on board the helicopter and the inspections in accordance with the AD `immediately before further flight' from 3 March 2003 `and thereafter at each daily inspection'.


1. http://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2003/aair/aair200300316.aspx
2. http://www.griffin-helicopters.co.uk/accidentdetails.aspx?accidentkey=4215
3. NTSB Identification: ENG03RA008 at https://www.ntsb.gov/about/employment/_layouts/ntsb.aviation/brief2.aspx?ev_id=20090512X15534&ntsbno=ENG03RA008&akey=1

Revision history:

19-Dec-2011 00:12 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Cn, Operator, Location, Phase, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
02-Sep-2016 21:12 Dr.John Smith Updated [Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
16-Oct-2018 17:29 Dr.John Smith Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Destination airport, Narrative]
09-Jun-2022 11:19 Ron Averes Updated [Location]

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