Pilot of Atlantis hotel crash helicopter was ‘negligent and reckless’, report concludes

The General Civil Aviation Authority final report gives a detailed background of the circumstances surrounding the crash that seriously injured the pilot and the landing officer.

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DUBAI // The pilot of a helicopter that crashed shortly after take-off from a Dubai hotel three years ago operated the aircraft in "a negligent and reckless manner", a report has found.

The General Civil Aviation Authority final report gives a detailed background into the circumstances surrounding the crash on January 22, 2014, at Atlantis, The Palm.

The aircraft was making a final journey from the hotel to Dubai International Airport after a full day and no commercial passengers were on board.

A pilot and a helicopter landing officer were in the aircraft at the time and both suffered serious injuries but they both made full recoveries. They were subjected to an alcohol and drug tests at Rashid Hospital, and the results were negative.

The 52-page document, published online on January 5, said the pilot’s aggressive, “aerobatic” manoeuvre was not in compliance with civil aviation regulations.

“The rapid onset of the high-speed rotation combined with the effects of the rotational inertia which forced the pilot and helicopter landing officer most probably resulted in disorientation of the pilot,” said the report.

The GCAA’s air investigation sector report said the contributory factors included “unforced skills-based errors of the handling pilot” and “poor pilot judgment of the aircraft handling requirements for the intended manoeuvre”.

The pilot, who had resigned from the company and was working his notice period at the time of the accident, was unable to apply the corrective actions necessary to return to a stable, steady state condition.

The report found the aircraft was airworthy and weather conditions were good at the time of the accident.

It was not caused by a loss of tail rotor effectiveness or by a mechanical systems failure.

However, the collective – used to increase the main rotor pitch simultaneously at all points of the rotor blade rotation – was lowered, resulting in an uncontrolled descent onto the helipad.

Despite the findings, the report makes clear that the objective of the investigation is to prevent aircraft accidents and incidents, and not to apportion blame or liability.

Accident investigators have made 10 safety recommendations to help prevent a repeat of the crash.

It was proposed that Helidubai, the scenic tours company that had operated the helicopter, establish a safety data collection and processing system, and update its safety management system to accurately reflect the risk associated with unmonitored pilot behaviour.

The company was also told to optimise its organisational structure to enhance oversight on a daily basis.

There was no published final approach and take-off (Fato) plates or procedure available to the pilots using the helipad. Hence, it was suggested that all operators using the helipad define Fato approach plates and standard operating procedures for heliport arrivals and departures.

The GCAA was asked to consider mandating the installation of a flight data recorder, a cockpit voice recorder or an airborne image recorder for light commercial aircraft operating under a UAE air operator certificate.

The European Aviation Safety Agency was told to provide adequate guidance on the definition of “aerobatic flight”.

The report said: “Specifically, a manoeuvre in the flight manual, which clearly and unambiguously states that yaw rates have to be controlled within defined margins with a clear warning that excessive intentional induced yaw can lead to pilot disorientation and onset of uncontrollable flight condition.”

In flight, rotation around the vertical axis is called yaw.

The agency was also asked to consider the option for a mandated locking mechanism to crew harness restraints.

The report suggested that due to the pilot’s seat lowering vertically as a result of the high deceleration loads, the pilot was not fully restrained in the harness as the aircraft began to rotate, resulting in several serious injuries to the head and upper body.