Accident to the Airbus Helicopters AS350-B3 registered F-OIAO operated by Hélicocéan on 04/10/2015 at Voh (New Caledonia)

Investigation progression Closed
Progress: 100%

The pilot, accompanied by a mechanic, was carrying out a firefighting mission in the vicinity of Voh, using a helicopter equipped with a Bambi Bucket. Just after refuelling, the pilot carried out several manoeuvres probably associated with scooping attempts in a mangrove area. The Bambi Bucket became snagged in the vegetation; the helicopter tipped forward and collided with the vegetation and ground.

The following factors may have had an impact on the management of the safety margins and recovery capabilities in a degraded situation:

  • pressure due to the fire and a high workload for the pilot still in the learning phase of the firefighting helicopter (FFH) activity;
  • a scooping and firefighting technique still being acquired, leaving little resources available to manage unforeseeable events.

The following factors may have contributed to this situation:

  • Insufficient FFH training and the absence of supervised flights which meant that it was not checked that the pilot had a sufficient level of command of the techniques for a real fire. This is linked in part, to the period of pressure and rapid development experienced by the company and in part, to the limited regulatory framework for issuing Declarations of proficiency (DNC) for the specialized activities in New Caledonia.
  • A period of intensive activity, particularly in terms of learning. This activity was linked, in particular, to the operational constraints of the company which quickly needed a designated crew training manager (RDFE) and a “Dauphin” SA365 instructor.
  • Personal pressure felt by the pilot and her determination to succeed in this new job which probably led her to accept all the missions without having the necessary distance to express her possible worries or difficulties.

The BEA has addressed the following safety recommendations to New Caledonia regarding:

  • the initial theoretical training and practical training in instruction and under supervision for a specialized activity;
  • the working hours of helicopter pilots performing aerial work.

The BEA has addressed the following safety recommendations to the French civil aviation authority (DGAC) regarding:

  • the content of the DNCs for the specialized activities not covered by the European regulations;
  • the problem of transferring a DNC from one company to another and from one environment to another.

The BEA has addressed the following safety recommendations to the Directorate of Civil Aviation - New Caledonia (DAC–NC) regarding:

  • inclusion in the operators’ Specialized Activities Manual, of a systematic period of supervised flights in real conditions after obtaining a FFH DNC;
  • examination of aids that helicopter operators carrying out FFH missions could provide to pilots for carrying out their missions, and in particular, to guide them in their decisions.

The BEA has addressed to the DAC-NC, in consultation with the aerial work helicopter operators in New Caledonia, a safety recommendation regarding:

  • working hours of their crew.