In 2020, the BEA published 14 reports concerning occurrences during the operation of rotary-wing aircraft (12 concerning helicopters and 2 concerning class 6 microlights).
These events, which all occurred during the day, exclusively concern light helicopters and bring to light two major safety topics:
1. Medical monitoring of crew (not just applicable to helicopter pilots)
The medical fitness examination is perceived by a majority of crew members as an examination which might bring an end to their career. However, the aim of the examination is above all, to guard against the risks of flight safety being affected by health issues, and the harmful consequences of aviation activities on health.
The report concerning the accident to F-GKMQ on 7 January 2019 at Puylaurens illustrates this safety topic: the difference between general health standards and aeromedical standards in the prevention of the cardiovascular risk gives rise to a space in which the pilot’s health can deteriorate before he is declared unfit. In this space, measures permit the mitigation of the risks of a deterioration in the state of health - and thus the occurrence of health and aviation accidents - of pilots which meet fitness criteria. The BEA has proposed that the visibility of cardiovascular risk factors and the dialogue with the crew member’s personal doctor(s) are developed in order to improve aviation safety by reinforcing the role of the medical fitness examination so that it becomes a lever for prevention.
Likewise, the report concerning the accident to F-HLBT on 26 August 2017 at Guérande shows the importance of encouraging pilots to declare in the most exhaustive way possible, the health events that they have experienced, the knowledge of which might be useful in the assessment of their fitness.
One person was fatally injured, four people were seriously injured and two people were injured in the occurrences mentioned.
These two reports contain safety recommendations addressed to the DGAC and EASA.
2. Loss of control
The helicopter pilot, while he has the possibility of manoeuvring in restricted areas to sometimes land on sites to hand, must always contend with the wind. Several cases of loss of control are the result of the pilot not sufficiently taking into account the wind (in particular tailwind) and a late or inappropriate action to counter it.
The report concerning the accident to F-HRCR on 31 January 2019 at Pierrevertshows that the loss of yaw control is the result of the pilot insufficiently taking into account the wind during the final and a late or inappropriate action to counter it.
Similar occurrences published in 2020:
• F-WSPM on 5 November 2018 at Saint-Pierre: loss of control linked to the use of a “yaw” take-off technique in turbulent, tailwind conditions.
• F-HVRA on 4 June 2019 at Caupennes-D’Armagnac: difficulties encountered by the pilot in keeping control of the helicopter which was flying at low speed with a tailwind and thus no longer in ground effect.
One person was fatally injured, three people were seriously injured and one person was injured in the occurrences mentioned.
Furthermore, the helicopter mechanics of flight mean that the pilot has to be continuously in a position to anticipate the interaction of the flight controls. The helicopter often flies close to the ground which requires the pilot to react quickly as there is a small safety margin with respect to obstacles. It is noteworthy that the first two occurrences took place during instruction flights.
• The accident to F-GGLB on 5 April 2018 at Lussac is a loss of control in instruction following a recognized engine failure.
• The accident to F-HDTO on 13 September 2019 at Lyon-Brindas is a loss of control in instruction during an engine failure exercise.
Two people were fatally injured and two people were injured in the occurrences mentioned.
Others reports published in 2020
• Accident to F-HOLA on 7 June 2019 at Grenoble: separation of collective pitch lever, loss of control, collision with ground, in instruction
• Accident to F-GJLX on 16 October 2019 at Blancey: collision with powerline during a powerline inspection flight, precautionary landing
• Accident to class 6 microlight identified 83ARG on 13 July 2018 at Saint-Raphael: error message on the instrument panel, autorotation, collision with the ground, fire
• Accident to class 6 microlight identified 54AXP on 15 July 2019 at Grand Couronné: loss of control during landing, collision with ground
• Accident to F-PJSL on 13 March 2018 at Millas: collision with ground after take-off, fire
• Accident to F-HJSC on 22 July 2020 at Nimes Garons: bird strike