Crew stood 'no chance' once helicopter went into tailspin

Aircraft's black box may reveal more clues as to how accident happened

Mark Roxburgh, Pilot
Powered by automated translation

The helicopter crew tragically killed on Saturday would likely have stood "no chance" of avoiding disaster if rotors had collided with a zipline, an aviation expert has said.

Julian Bray said that once an aircraft went it to a tailspin – as was seen on footage of the accident in Ras Al Khaimah – there was nothing a pilot could do to salvage the situation.

Investigators will now be hoping that two black box recorders on board the helicopter will provide answers to the mystery of how the aircraft crashed, he said.

It is believed the helicopter collided with a zipline, although it is not yet clear why. The crash happened in the Jebel Jais mountain region, where the world’s largest zipline opened earlier this year.

“If the tail or the main propeller is damaged in any way, of course, you’ve got a problem,” said Mr Bray, a journalist covering aviation safety.

“If it’s just a question of the engine cutting out, you can glide down but if the rotors are damaged you don’t have any stability.

“If it’s gone into this wire then it’s pretty sudden. It would just fall out of the sky, basically. There’s nothing you can do at all. Once a rotor has come into contact with a zipwire, game’s up.”

Videos posted online show the helicopter diving into a tailspin before crashing and bursting into flames in the valley of a rocky mountain. Mr Bray said this suggested the rear of the aircraft had been damaged.

He said pilots would usually be aware of any hazards – not least one as prominent as the world’s largest zipline – and that investigators would be looking at whether this was the case.

“Any zip wires should have been clearly marked on the pilot’s maps,” Mr Bray said. “If it’s a mountainous area you can get peculiar wind patterns so that can also catch people out.

“On that particular helicopter they have a combined data recorder. One monitors whatever is being said and the other monitors any data coming in. Hopefully they can recover that, which will give investigators a complete picture.”


Read more:

Identities of UAE helicopter crash crew released

Helicopter crashes after hitting zipline on Jebel Jais, killing all of its crew


UAE residents paid tribute to the crew on social media, offering condolences to families of the deceased with many dubbing the victims "martyrs" and "heroes" as they passed away while serving their country.

South African Mark Roxburgh, a paramedic and single father supporting a young child, was among the victims named on Sunday.

Pilots Saqr Saeed Mohamed Abdullah Al Yamahi and Hameed Mohamed Obaid Al Zaabi, along with navigator Jasim Abdullah Ali Tunaiji also died.