Helicopter Wildlife Netting Accidents
In May 2018 the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published two reports into accidents involving helicopters attempting to carry out wildlife net captures.
Tail Rotor Strike
When the helicopter was approximately above the elk, his attention was immediately focused forward due to a small rise in terrain. He pitched the helicopter’s nose up, and the helicopter started to shake and spin. Subsequently, the helicopter struck the ground, the right skid broke, and the helicopter came to rest on its right side.
Postaccident examination revealed that the tail rotor had struck the elk when the pilot pitched the helicopter’s nose up.
The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the tailboom and rotor [sic].
The two persons on board were uninjured. NTSB do not comment on the fate of the elk, but other sources state its injuries were terminal.
The NTSB probable cause was:
The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from an elk while maneuvering at a low altitude.
Successful elk captures to fit radio collars in New Mexico:
Self Inflicted Main Rotor Damage
A few months earlier, on 26 October 2017 in La Paloma, Texas, Airbus Helicopters EC130T2 N22TZ of Richardson Aviation was manoeuvring at low altitude with two net gunners located on the left and right in the aft cabin according to the NTSB report.
The pilot reported that he entered a left bank to pursue a deer. The deer was located “between our 8 and 9 o’clock position, and the net gunner made the net shot at the deer.” The pilot observed the net miss the deer and simultaneously heard an unusual “whooshing noise” coming from the helicopter.
He made a precautionary landing, and during the shutdown, he noticed what he described as an unusual discoloration of the main rotor disc.
Examination of the main rotor blades revealed that one of the blades had a large hole in it, about 5 ft from the blade tip.
The net that was fired at the deer was recovered and was found to be missing one of the weights that are normally attached to the net’s corners.
The NTSB probable cause was:
The separation of a weight from the gunner’s net, which struck the helicopter’s main rotor blade during flight.
Other Safety Resources
- NTSB Comes Out For Gun Control: The butt of a hunter’s gun became lodged in the cyclic control during a feral hog hunting flight in Texas.
- EC120 Underslung Load Accident 26 September 2013 during reindeer herding in Sweden.
- Keep Your Eyes on the Hook! Underslung External Load Safety
- Unexpected Load: AS350B3 USL / External Cargo Accident in Norway
- Unexpected Load: B407 USL / External Cargo Accident in PNG
- Fatal H500 / 369D Low Altitude Hover Power Loss: Power Line Maintenance Project
- UPDATE 28 July 2018: Wayward Window: Fatal Loss of a Fire-Fighting Helicopter in NZ
- UPDATE 1 December 2018: Helicopter Tail Rotor Strike from Firefighting Bucket