The investigation into a fatal helicopter crash that killed three people in the New South Wales Hunter Valley in 2015 has found bad weather likely caused the accident.
The pilot, renowned landscape photographer Richard Green, along with his wife Carolyn and documentary maker John Davis, were en route to Sydney from Breeza in the state’s north-west when the chopper crashed into mountainous terrain near Cooranbong.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s (ATSB) report into the incident revealed Mr Green landed the chopper temporarily, before taking off again in marginal weather conditions.
It said the helicopter was heading towards rising terrain and crashed into it about seven minutes later, with Mr Green likely encountering reduced visibility.
The report said there was low cloud and drizzle around the time of the crash.
The ATSB said the accident demonstrated the danger of flying in deteriorating weather conditions.
“Weather-related general aviation accidents remain one of the most significant causes for concern in aviation safety,” it said.
“The often-fatal outcomes of these accidents are usually all the more tragic because they are avoidable.”
The ATSB added that pre-flight planning, having alternate plans, and making timely decisions to turn back or divert were crucial.
‘No connection’ to pilot’s previous close calls
The investigation found no engine malfunction contributed to the crash but said the fixed emergency locator had been replaced with personal locator beacons that required manual activation.
While it did not affect the fatal outcome of the accident, the lack of activation delayed the search and rescue response, the report said.
The ATSB ruled out any connection between the accident and Mr Green’s incident history, which included a pilot licence suspension in 2013 for dangerous flying.