Engine lost power in chopper that crashed into homes near Moorabbin Airport

Engine lost power in chopper that crashed into homes near Moorabbin Airport

March 30, 2023

A student pilot who crashed a helicopter into Melbourne homes did not immediately recognise the engine had lost power.

The pilot was on his second solo flight in a Hughes 269C three-seat light helicopter, returning to Moorabbin Airport when he noticed it had become unstable and started what’s called a go-around, an Australian Transport Safety Bureau report released on Thursday found.

“As the helicopter climbed to about 650 feet above ground level, the engine lost power,” bureau director of transport safety Stuart Macleod said.

“While the pilot identified a reduction in performance at this time, they did not immediately recognise the engine had lost power.”

The chopper came down on to two houses at Mentone, near the airport, seriously injuring the pilot and causing substantial damage.

The report notes that while the pilot was troubleshooting the reduction in engine performance, the helicopter passed two suitable sites for a forced landing.

“When the pilot recognised a forced landing was required, they then did not identify a nearby football oval as the closest suitable area, possibly due to it being obscured by the airframe or instrument panel,” Macleod said.

“Instead, they identified a school ground, and attempted a landing there, but collided with rooftops short of this intended location as the helicopter had insufficient height.”

The bureau says the crash highlights the challenges pilots face with a loss of engine power at low level and with few suitable landing areas nearby.

“Pilots can best mitigate the effects of a power loss by forward planning, which reduces your mental workload under stress,” Macleod said.

This is not the first time an aircraft has crashed near Moorabbin Airport, which is 21 kilometres south-east of Melbourne’s CBD.

In 2019, two men walked away with minor injuries after their plane crashed on a nearby golf course. In 2018, father-of-two Anthony Liddell was killed when the Cessna 172 he was flying crashed.


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