News release

Deviation from approved procedure during training flight led to 2013 helicopter crash at Sept-Îles Airport

Dorval, Quebec, 4 August 2015 – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today published its investigation report (A13Q0021) into an accident involving a helicopter training flight at the Sept-Îles Airport on 03 February 2013. The pilot instructor sustained serious injuries and the 2 pilots-in-training sustained minor injuries. The helicopter was heavily damaged.

The Eurocopter AS350 BA, operated by Héli-Excel Inc, was practicing various types of landings in unprepared areas. The aircraft then headed to the Sept-Îles Airport to undertake various simulated emergency exercises. At 0959 Eastern Standard Time, as the helicopter began its third hydraulic systems failure exercise, the flight instructor flew a short pattern at low altitude and low speed without hydraulic power. In the moments following the start of the final approach, the cyclic control stick moved sharply forward and to the left. The flight instructor gripped the cyclic stick to try and re-establish level flight. The main rotor blades struck the runway, and the aircraft came to a stop on its left side.

The investigation found that the approved procedure to complete this manoeuver was not followed. As a result, the helicopter's flight profile deviated from the flight profile recommended by the manufacturer when the hydraulic system is depressurized. The investigation also found that in the absence of specific instructions for pilots regarding restoration of hydraulic pressure in the event of deviation from the flight profile, there is a risk that pilots will not be able to re-engage the hydraulic system while applying considerable effort to the helicopter controls.

The investigation made some other significant findings as to risk. First, the TSB has documented a number of cases where wearing a helmet would likely have reduced or prevented pilot injuries. Therefore, helicopter pilots who do not wear helmets are at increased risk of incapacitation, serious injuries or loss of life in the event of an accident. Secondly, the investigation revealed that there was no coordination of the emergency response. When emergency vehicles drive on an active runway without coordination between the airport operator and emergency response units, and with no means of communicating with the flight service station, there is a risk of collision on the runway.

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
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053