The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is expressing concerns that a delay by the country's regulator in implementing new requirements for pilots undertaking low-level aerial work has safety implications for operators conducting such work.
The ATSB identified a number of safety issues in its investigation into the fatal crash of a Bell 206B performing an aerial noxious weeds survey in New South Wales in February 2006. The three occupants of the helicopter were killed and the helicopter was destroyed when it struck a powerline.
Following the ATSB's investigation, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) indicated that it was considering the development of a Civil Aviation Order that would require anyone carrying out low-level operations to satisfy relevant low-level flying standards.
In Australia, other than those requirements affecting agricultural and mustering work, there are no regulated low-level requirements mandated before pilots are able to undertake low-level aerial work, such as surveying or spotting, notes the ATSB. CASA has acknowledged that the implementation of such requirements has slipped, with the ATSB saying that this is a cause for concern.
The ATSB also cited as a safety issue the lack of a permanent, widely available source of low-flying knowledge and information for access by those involved in such work and calls for the development of guidance material. The ATSB is also highlighting the need for a national database of information on the location of known powerlines and tall structures to prevent such accidents in the future.
"The resolution of those safety issues has the potential to reduce the risk of wirestrikes during future noxious weeds surveys and other similar low-level campaigns," says the bureau.