This is a courtesy translation by the BEA of the Final Report on the Safety Investigation. As accurate as the translation may be, the original text in French is the work of reference.
Note: The following information is principally taken from the statements made by the student pilot, the instructor and the owner of the microlight base. This information has not been independently validated by the BEA.
1 - History of the flight
It was the first training flight for the student pilot who had started a pilot training course in order to obtain a Commercial Pilot License - Helicopter (CPL(H)). After showing the helicopter to the student pilot, and carrying out the daily and pre-flight inspections, the instructor took off from Perpignan-Rivesaltes airport bound for the Llupia microlight base. The instructor was in the right seat and the student pilot in the left seat. During the flight, the student pilot carried out a few handling exercises. On approaching the base, the instructor took back the controls, lined up on final for runway 32 and then landed. He went over to the hangar where the owner of the base and another person were present. With the engine running, rotor turning and the right door open, the instructor asked the owner if he could manoeuvre in a zone that he designated with his arm. After a forward flight performed by the instructor, the student pilot started hover flight exercises at about 30 cm from the ground. At the end of the exercise, as the helicopter had deviated from its initial position, the instructor took back the controls and performed a sideways flight to the right. Seeing the helicopter approach a post around 50 cm high, the owner ran over making signs for the crew to climb. The rear of the right skid struck the post. The helicopter tipped onto its right side and collided with the ground. Once the helicopter was immobile, the crew commanded the engine shut-down and evacuated. (See Figure 1: wreckage of F-BVFO, source: student pilot).
2 - Additional information
2.1 Instructor information and statement
The instructor, aged 70, holds:
- a (CPL(H)) with Bell 47 and EXEC 162 HDF ratings,
- a Flight Instructor Helicopter (FI(H)) rating,
- a microlight pilot and instructor licence.
The day of the accident, he had logged around 10,000 flight hours on helicopters of which 6,800 on the Bell 47, including 6,500 hours as an instructor. He specified that he had not given any training over the previous two years.
He said that one month before the accident, he had obtained the authorization from the owner of the microlight base to come and train on his base as Perpignan airport did not have a suitable area for hover flight training. He had not landed on the base for four years. The day of the accident, he went directly to the hangar without carrying out a survey of the base, as the purpose of the training session was not to practice runway circuits. In addition, he did not want to disturb the peace for the local residents. Before starting the exercises, he wanted to specify to the owner that he intended carrying out exercises on the base. He chose to manoeuvre in the vicinity of a disused runway, in front of the owner, a former helicopter mechanic. He had not checked this zone, having identified no difficulty during his exchange with the owner and from what he could see from his position.
He considered that he should have surveyed the area before starting the exercises.
2.2 Microlight base owner information and statement
The owner of the microlight base holds a microlight pilot licence. He explained that, during the exchange with the instructor which took place with the engine running and rotor turning, he understood that the instructor wanted to fly around the base. He told him not to fly over the model aircraft area which was situated at 200 m north of threshold 22.
He also indicated that he planned to reopen the disused runway. To this end, he had kept the post of the former wind sock that he wants to put back into place.
2.3 Microlight base and accident site information
The Llupia microlight base has two grass runways.
The accident site was situated between two disused runways. It was covered in grass around 10 cm high. The post of the former wind sock was located between these two runways (see figure 2: diagram of accident site, source: BEA).