Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
10 Nov 2011

MEDIA RELEASE

For further information contact

Senior Communications Adviser Emma Peel
Tel: 04 560 9646, or 027 272 3545
Email: emma.peel@caa.govt.nz

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Preliminary report ZK-HLL: Impacted sea during fishing operation

The Civil Aviation Authority has released a preliminary report into a fatal helicopter accident in the South Pacific on 2 October 2011.

The helicopter was being flown from a fishing vessel to scout for tuna about 155 nm south-west of Tokelau. Two people were on board, the pilot and the vessel’s captain, who was coordinating with a chase boat to assess a tuna catch.

The pilot was orbiting the school of tuna at about 700 feet when he noticed a mechanical problem and told the passenger they would have to head back to the vessel, which was about a quarter of a nautical mile away.

Lead Safety Investigator Paul Breuilly says the pilot made one further orbit over the tuna and then started heading back. “Witnesses then saw the helicopter head into a steep descent, hitting the sea with its nose up and tail down, and then rolling over onto its right-hand side.

“It quickly started to sink, but the ship’s captain was able to climb out of the left-hand side. The pilot resurfaced soon after, but could not be revived.

“The pilot had told the passenger that the problem involved the helicopter’s governor, which keeps the engine revolutions and the rotor revolutions in balance. This fault on this type of helicopter should not render it unflyable though. Unfortunately, the wreckage has sunk, and cannot be inspected.”

The accident occurred in international waters, and is being investigated by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority under international agreements.

Click here to view the preliminary report, which is available on the CAA web site.

The investigation is continuing. Following further inquiries, a full report will be published. This report is expected in approximately 12 months.

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