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Pilot error in rescue chopper crash

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/04/2016 By Cleo Fraser

A helicopter transferring a patient between South Island hospitals lost power and was forced to make an emergency landing due to modifications and the pilot's inexperience, a report says.

A twin-engined BK117 rescue helicopter carrying four passengers from Ashburton to Christchurch in May 2014 was forced to land on farmland 25km before it reached its destination after both engines cut out.

The aircraft had been starved of fuel because the pilot did not switch on the fuel transfer pumps after starting the engines, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission said in a report released on Thursday.

The pilot's incorrect management and configuration of the aircraft's fuel supply system prevented the fuel in the main tanks getting to the engines, it said.

The pilot should not have flown the aircraft because he had not been assessed for his type-specific knowledge or checked for competency on the BK117.

The pilot's employer, Garden City Helicopters, also failed to provide training, supervision or policy on the use of written checklists for pilots who lacked recent experience with a specific aircraft.

Another contributing factor was the pilot's inability to see fuel system alert lights due to modifications.

The commission recommended the Civil Aviation Authority review cockpit lighting in BK117 helicopters where modifications have been made and that Garden City Helicopters review its pilot competency and training policy.

All air operators should be required to ensure appropriate training and supervision is given to pilots who lack recent experience as many fly multiple aircraft types, the commission said.

No one was injured in the crash.

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