Impromptu Landing – Unseen Cable

Impromptu Landing – Unseen Cable (Skogsflyg Cassel Aero R44 SE-JIT)

On 8 November 2019 Robinson R44 SE-JIT of Skogsflyg Cassel Aero landed hard at Unkervatnet in Norway while conducting reindeer herding task for a Sami village in the Tärnaby area of Sweden.

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT After Landing (Credit: via SHV)

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT After Landing (Credit: via SHV)

The Accident Flight

The Swedish Accident Investigation Authority (SHK) explain in their safety investigation report (issued on 2 July 2020 in Swedish with an English summary) that on-board were the pilot and a mission specialist, a reindeer owner from the Sami village.  The 25-year-old pilot was relatively low time (455 hours in total and 355 hours on type).

The reindeer were further west than expected and their tracks went inside Norway.

The pilot [had] followed the valley west and tried to contact the Norwegian air traffic service to file a flight plan in the air if possible.  The regulations do allow this in some cases but not when the flight crosses a national border. The regulations stipulate that an flight plan must be submitted at least 60 minutes before take-off if the flight involves crossing a national border.  No contact was obtained with the Norwegian air traffic service and the flight [had] continued…about 15 km into Norway.

The pilot decided to land to contact the operator’s flight manager in order to clarify the conditions for flying in Norway.

The Swedish operator’s Operations Manual did cover flying in Norway from an ATC perspective but not from a permit perspective:

[In fact] the company has an authorization issued by the Swedish Transport Agency to conduct commercial specialized aviation operations of a high-risk nature in Sweden and also in Norway, but lacked a low-flying permit in Norway and a “Traffic Permit per Assignment” to fly in Norway.

Having decided to land:

A turning area at the end of a forest road was identified as a suitable landing site and the pilot relied on the assessment he did from a high altitude.

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT Accident Site (Credit: via SHV)

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT Accident Site (Credit: via SHV)

The approach along the forest road towards the turning area meant that there were backlight conditions during the landing.  Just before the turning area, there was a telephone line crossing the road.

During the accident site investigation, it was found that the height of the line is half the height compared to the height of the surrounding trees on the north side of the forest road. On the south side, the height of the line is about 2/3 of the height of the surrounding trees. The lead poles on both sides of the forest road were obscured by surrounding trees.

When the pilot detected the line, he made an evasive manoeuvre. However, the rear end of the helicopter hit the line and was damaged.

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT Tail Damage (Credit: via SHV)

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT Tail Damage (Credit: via SHV)

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT Tail Rotor Damage (Credit: via SHV)

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT Tail Rotor Damage (Credit: via SHV)

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT Tail Rotor Drive Shaft Damage (Credit: via SHV)

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT Tail Rotor Drive Shaft Damage (Credit: via SHV)

The pilot made an immediate but hard landing, resulting in further damage.

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT Tail Boom Damage (Credit: via SHV)

Skogsflyg Cassel Aero Robinson R44 SE-JIT Tail Boom Damage (Credit: via SHV)

SHK Conclusions

The SHK comment that the cause of the accident was the inadequate landing site reconnaissance (from high rather than low altitude).

Contributory factors were:

  1. The backlighted conditions
  2. The pylons being hidden in trees
  3. The change in circumstances resulting in uncertainty, needing consultation with base and a previously unanticipated landing.

Safety Actions

Cassel Aero decided on 14 November 2019 to suspend all the company’s flight operations and at a flight safety meeting on 18 November 2019, the company management decided that the flight operations would not be resumed until all corrective measures had been taken.

[T]he company has introduced an extra training program for the 2020 season, which includes training in the risk identification checklist (RIC), training in crossing national borders and practical training in foreign countries.

Additionally, each aircraft has been…

….equipped with satellite telephones, including emergency alarms and GPS reception. A tracker has been installed in each helicopter for position monitoring .. Furthermore,
an iPad has been procured for each helicopter, which includes GPS, maps and weather information.

Our Observation

HAI have the Land and Live campaign.  This is based on the entirely sensible logic that things may change during a flight and pilot’s should then “reassess the wisdom of continuing the flight and whether or not to make a precautionary landing”.  This campaign was launched in 2014 to “eliminate pilots’ fear of getting into trouble for landing where they had not initially planned to land”.  In this case the pilot did not face a dire emergency and was prudently looking for a site to land, confer and replan.  This accident shows that landing in an unsurveyed impromptu site has its own risks and so pressing on in deteriorating weather because you think you can always make a precautionary ‘Land and Live’ landing in extremis is not an effective risk management strategy as we discussed further here: A Try and See Catastrophe: R44 Accident in Norway in Bad Weather.

Safety Resources

Other Aerossurance articles include:

See also: Avoiding Wire Strikes

The European Safety Promotion Network – Rotorcraft (ESPN-R) has published this video and guidance with EASA:

easa wirestrike

 

Aerossurance will be running training workshops at the EHA European Rotors VTOL Show and Safety Conference in Cologne in November 2020 on a) Safety Culture and Leadership and b) Contracting Aviation Services: An Introduction to the Basics.

european rotors 2020

 


Aerossurance has extensive air safety, operations, SAR, airworthiness, human factors, aviation regulation and safety analysis experience.  For practical aviation advice you can trust, contact us at: enquiries@aerossurance.com