Accident AgustaWestland AW139 G-LBAL, Thursday 13 March 2014
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Date:Thursday 13 March 2014
Time:19:30 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic A139 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
AgustaWestland AW139
Owner/operator:Haughey Air Ltd
Registration: G-LBAL
MSN: 31421
Year of manufacture:2012
Engine model:x Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6C-67C
Fatalities:Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:near Gillingham Hall, Beccles, Norfolk -   United Kingdom
Phase: Take off
Departure airport:Gillingham Hall, Norfolk
Destination airport:Coventry Airport (CVT/EGBE)
Investigating agency: AAIB
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
A civilian helicopter crashed at Gillingham near the town of Beccles close to the Suffolk-Norfolk border. Heavy fog in the area may have been a contributing factor. According to the preliminary report from the AAIB into the accident, dated 3 April 2014:

"The helicopter was scheduled to depart Gillingham Hall for Coventry Airport at 1830 hrs but the passengers were not ready to depart until around 19:20 hrs. By this time, night had fallen and dense fog had developed; witnesses described visibility in the order of tens of metres.

The co-pilot escorted the passengers to the helicopter and assisted them aboard, while the commander started the engines. The helicopter lifted into a hover at 19:24 hrs, and then hover-taxied to the middle of the paddock in which the helipad was sited. The commander, who was the pilot flying, briefed that he would climb vertically from the hover before setting course.

The helicopter climbed, initially with very little ground speed. At a height of approximately 32 ft, the helicopter started transitioning, picking up forward speed as it continued to climb.

The radio altitude peaked at 125 ft agl as the ground speed increased through 60 kt. The helicopter thereafter pitched progressively nose-down, entering a descent as it did so, reaching 35º nose‑down one second before the end of the data recording. The final complete frame of recorded data analysed to date showed a pitch attitude of 25º nose-down, a radio altitude of 82 ft agl and a ground speed of 90 kt. The recorded rate of descent was 2,400 ft/min and increasing.

In the final few seconds of the flight the co-pilot made two verbal prompts regarding pitch attitude to the commander. Simultaneously, the recorded data shows that full collective was applied.

The recorded data includes parameters relating to cautions, warnings and faults. None were active during the accident flight with the exception of the last data points when full collective had been applied and a gearbox torque-related caution was triggered. The data showed that trim release switches on the cyclic and collective controls, on which force must be applied against springs to achieve manual flight, were active throughout the flight".

AAIB Conclusion: The helicopter departed the private site in fog and at night. Operation from the site in such conditions was permissible under existing regulation. Departure from a licensed aerodrome in such conditions would not have been permitted.

Evidence suggests that the flight crew may have been subject to somatogravic illusion caused by the helicopter’s flight path and the lack of external visual cues.

The absence of procedures for two pilot operation, the pilots’ lack of formal training in such procedures, and the limited use of the automatic flight control system, may have contributed to the accident.

Opportunities to reduce the likelihood of such an event, presented by the report into the operator’s previous fatal accident, appeared not to have been taken.

The UK will adopt new regulations involving non-commercial complex aircraft operations in 2016 and, following the accident to G-LBAL and other occurrences investigated by the AAIB involving helicopters, the CAA intends to complete a review the subject of IFR flying outside controlled airspace by 1 October 2015.

A Coroner's order to revel the AAIB CVR transcript has been denied in the High Court.

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: AAIB
Report number: EW/C2014/03/02
Status: Investigation completed
Download report: Final report


1. Helicopter Feared Crashed Near Beccles
2. AAIB:
3. CAA:
4. Norfolk Helicopter Crash - Four Dead
5. Norfolk helicopter crash: Lord Ballyedmond was suing makers of helicopter in which he crashed
6. Lord Ballyedmond: NI peer among Norfolk helicopter crash dead


Taken 2013/06/18 Royal Ascot Heliport, Ascot, Berkshire. UK


Revision history:

13-Mar-2014 21:41 Topaz Added
13-Mar-2014 21:49 Topaz Updated [Source]
13-Mar-2014 21:58 Topaz Updated [Time, Location, Source, Narrative]
13-Mar-2014 22:08 Topaz Updated [Aircraft type, Narrative]
13-Mar-2014 22:29 Topaz Updated [Total fatalities]
13-Mar-2014 22:31 topaz Updated [Total fatalities]
14-Mar-2014 05:13 Geno Updated [Source]
14-Mar-2014 06:18 Topaz Updated [Operator, Total occupants, Nature, Source, Narrative]
14-Mar-2014 07:59 ridgerunner Updated [Aircraft type, Registration]
14-Mar-2014 08:26 TB Updated [Cn, Other fatalities, Damage]
14-Mar-2014 08:28 Anon. Updated [Registration, Narrative]
14-Mar-2014 14:20 TB Updated [Registration, Cn, Other fatalities, Damage, Narrative]
14-Mar-2014 19:04 Geno Updated [Source]
14-Mar-2014 20:57 JINX Updated [Location, Departure airport, Narrative]
14-Mar-2014 21:27 Topaz Updated [Source]
15-Mar-2014 09:41 harro Updated [Embed code]
15-Mar-2014 17:05 Anon. Updated [Embed code, Photo, ]
15-Apr-2014 05:08 Geno Updated [Phase, Source]
04-Sep-2014 10:14 TB Updated [Location, Source, Embed code, Narrative]
04-Sep-2014 10:16 TB Updated [Source]
28-Sep-2015 01:02 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
28-Sep-2015 01:03 Dr. John Smith Updated [Narrative]
09-Oct-2015 14:23 Aerossurance Updated [Source, Narrative]
29-Sep-2016 10:07 Aerossurance Updated [Location, Source, Narrative]
13-Mar-2021 09:54 Aerossurance Updated [Embed code]

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