Hospital helicopter landing site incidents spark safety advice
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued a safety advisory after incidents in which pedestrians were injured at hospital helicopter landing sites (HLS).
The notice advises medical transport operators and HLS operators to ensure local procedures are sufficient to mitigate the risk of rotor wash associated with large helicopters.
An ATSB Aviation Data and Analysis Report examining incidents over the last five years considered the common factors, existing regulatory guidelines, and ways to mitigate the effects of rotor wash.
It found that of 18 reported helicopter rotor wash incidents in the last five years, nine occurred at HLS, while there were no reported occurrences of rotor wash-related injuries at hospital HLSs prior to the increase in the use of the Leonardo AgustaWestland AW139 for medical transport operations from 2017.
“Six of those nine occurrences resulted in injuries to pedestrians who were within approximately 30 metres of the landing site, and flight crew were not aware of the presence of pedestrians in all cases,” ATSB Director Transport Safety Dr Stuart Godley said.
“In fact, in most instances, flight crew were not aware any incident had occurred at the time.”
The ATSB’s report notes a range of factors contribute to the effects of rotor wash, including helicopter weight and size, rotor size, disk loading, prevailing winds and flightpath.
“The flightpath is the only element that can be managed by the pilot in accordance with the operator’s procedures,” Godley said.
“But as these occurrences demonstrate, pilots may be unaware of the presence of pedestrians in the vicinity, and therefore be unable to adjust their flightpath accordingly.
“As such, hospital landing site owners and helicopter owners should ensure pedestrians are not affected by rotor wash, by implementing appropriate risk controls for their landing sites, in addition to the helicopter operating procedures.”
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