Mind the Gap: Hover Taxi Collision (Bell 206L)

On 30 July 2022 a Bell 206L was hover taxiing from the fuel bowser to park at Newman Airport, Western Australia when the main rotor stuck a hangar.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSBoccurrence brief identifies neither aircraft or operator.  They explain that:

While lining up with marking aids on the taxiway, the pilot directed their attention towards a nearby parked helicopter to the right to ensure adequate clearance from the Bell 206L’s main rotor blade. As the pilot moved the 206L forward into the parking bay, there was a loud bang.

The pilot reported there was no loss of control or abnormal movement after the sound and continued to land and shut down the helicopter without further incident.

During the post-flight inspection, it was identified that one main rotor blade had contacted the end of the gantry which supports the sliding doors of the hangar.

Hangar Door Structural Damage: Bell 206L Hover Taxi Collision Newman, WA (Credit: via ATSB)

The helicopter sustained damage to the main rotor blade tip cap over about 10 cm.

Main Rotor Blade Damage: Bell 206L Hover Taxi Collision Newman, WA (Credit: via ATSB)

Safety Actions

According to ATSB:

  • The operator suspended helicopter operations around the apron area where the incident occurred, pending the outcomes of an internal investigation into the incident.
  • The operator will also review the risk analysis of the apron parking in the vicinity of the hangar and assess the current helicopter parking configuration.

ATSB Safety Message

The FAA helicopter flying handbook advises that when taxiing near hangars or obstructions, the distance between the rotor blade tips and obstructions is difficult to judge.

To reduce collision risk, operators should consider human limitations in assessing the hazards and ensure crews maintain situational awareness of the aircraft’s established safe distance for separation from all objects during taxi.

Risk assessments on apron parking areas should be reviewed periodically to re-evaluate risks and mitigations.

Safety Resources

The European Safety Promotion Network Rotorcraft (ESPN-R) has a helicopter safety discussion group on LinkedIn.  You may also find these Aerossurance articles of interest:

The UK CAA has issued this infographic on distraction:

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