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North Wales fatal helicopter crash caused by weather

Rhinog Fawr crash site

AAIB/Crown Copyright

A fatal helicopter crash in North Wales last year was caused by the weather according to the Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB).

The Airbus Helicopters AS355 Ecureuil II, G-OHCP crashed into Rhinog Fawr mountain on the 29th March 2017 killing all on board, the pilot and 4 passengers.

According to the accident report aircraft had taken off from a site near Cranfield in England and was flying using Visual Flight Rules (VFR) towards Dublin in Ireland.

The weather got worse and a witness saw the helicopter disappear into the cloud over North Wales shortly before the helicopter impacted the side of Rhinog Fawr mountain at about 2000ft.

The AAIB determined that the autopilot was in command of the aircraft, this was consistent with the aircraft making a gentle descent from 2500ft down to 2000ft before the impact.

The evidence from the engine and rotor showed both were functioning normally at the time of impact.

The AAIB concluded that the pilot had flown into terrain in control of a functioning aircraft but was hampered by the weather. The report said that “The pilot did not carry out a 180° turn away from the rising ground and probably did not regain VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions) before impact with the side of the mountain”

Not making any safety recommendations, it referred to CAA Safety Sense Leaflet 1e – Good Airmanship, Leaflet 5e – VFR Navigation, and Leaflet 23 – Pilots – It’s Your Decision, provide guidance for pilots operating VFR in the lower levels of Class G airspace and in poor weather.

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