Helicopter accident north of Sept-Îles in August 2010 demonstrates that precisely calculating take-off weight is critical for safety
Gatineau, Quebec, 26 March 2013 — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its investigation report (A10Q0132) on the loss of visual reference, loss of control, and collision with terrain of Héli-Excel Inc. Eurocopter AS350-BA (helicopter) C-GIYR north of Sept-Îles, Quebec, on 17 August 2010. The pilot and the three passengers did not survive the force of the impact.
The TSB concluded in its report that loss of visual reference with the terrain and then loss of control of the aircraft were factors that contributed to the accident.
The TSB also highlights in this report that the risk of an accident increases when a pilot experiences operational pressures. For example, pressure from passengers to bring excess baggage could lead the carrier and the pilot to allow an overloaded flight. When a helicopter is carrying a large amount of baggage that has not been weighed, it is impossible to calculate take-off weight precisely, and the helicopter risks taking off with more than the authorized weight, as was the case in this accident. The pilot had also reduced the fuel load to accommodate the large amount of baggage, which meant he had less fuel at his disposal to deal with unforeseen circumstances. This decreased fuel endurance could have prompted the pilot to try to take a shortcut through the mountains even as the aircraft was flying in marginal weather conditions. The pilot finally lost visual contact with the terrain and lost control of the aircraft, resulting in the impact with the ground.
Transport Canada exercises little regulatory oversight of helicopter operations on the ground, and since load details are not recorded in logbooks, there is no way of knowing whether a flight is overweight on take-off or not.
Since the accident, Héli-Excel has built an outdoor scale on the tarmac at Sept-Îles to better control the weight of goods being loaded. It has also introduced training on the ground and in flight to reduce the risks of flying in bad weather. In addition, when accepting a charter request, Héli-Excel endeavours to identify the client's real needs so it can recommend the appropriate helicopter.
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
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