ATSB stresses importance of HUET

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The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued a new safety advisory along with the release of its preliminary report on the fatal Airbus EC135 accident on 14 March.

The helicopter in question, registered VH-ZGA, collided with water northwest of Port Hedland at night when attempting to collect a marine pilot from a bulk carrier. The pilot flying had only recently been hired by the company and was under the supervision of a company training and checking pilot. The accident occurred when the aircraft’s first attempt to land on board the ship failed. During the second approach, the helicopter hit the water and rolled inverted, ATSB said. The training and checking pilot was able to free himself, but the pilot was unable to free himself.

In response, ATSB told all helicopter operators who conduct overwater operations to reiterate the importance of frequent helicopter underwater escape training (HUET) for all aircrews and staff, and how this can increase survivability of a ditching.

“Our examination of the helicopter operator’s records indicated that the deceased pilot, who was new to the company, had not undertaken any HUET for the past nine years,” said ATSB Executive Director of Transport Safety, Nat Nagy. “It is vital for all pilots who undertake over water operations to regularly conduct underwater escape training to greatly increase their chances of survival in an accident such as this.”

The final ATSB report of the crash is due in the first quarter of 2019.

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