Only two days ago I wrote a blog post about how we learn to land in confined and off airport areas in the UK. I made a point of mentioning wires:
Remember your two enemies though: WIRES & VORTEX RING. Avoid these at all costs, and you’ll maintain the perfect ratio of successful landings to take-offs.
Well, in an uncanny piece of timing the the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has just published its August Bulletin which contains a report into the crash of a Hughes 369E, G-VICE in May this year. Guess what happened: the pilot hit wires he didn’t see.
Thankfully, and as a tribute to the sturdiness of the Hughes 369E, the pilot was unhurt despite falling to the ground from 50 feet. The aircraft was destroyed.
Although I don’t know the pilot, I had seen the aircraft a number of times as it was maintained at Sywell, and you just can’t miss a Hughes, they are lovely looking aircraft.
In my post I mentioned the importance of flying a reccee circuit of the site – the importance of this is borne out by the statement from the pilot in the AAIB Report:
The pilot stated that, although he had not attempted a previous landing in this area of the site, he did not fly a reconnaissance circuit and had not approached over the trees before; he was thus unaware of the presence of the cables and failed to see them during the approach. He commented that a contributory factor was that the supporting poles were hidden in the trees either side of the gap.
When I did the Robinson Factory Safety Course in November 2008 wirestrikes were identified as the leading cause of accidents to helicopters. At the time I thought this must be a by-product of the higher amount of low level flying that goes on the in the United States – most of my flying is over 1,500′ and you don’t get too many wires up there. This just goes to prove you need be on your guard for wires every flight!
So, please please please folks – fly the reccee (even if, and maybe even especially if the site is one you use refularly) and be on your guard for wires.