Crash follows spate of helicopter tragedies

Pilot Rick Lucas clambered uninjured from the chopper after it crashed into Porirua Harbour in May last year (2017). Photo: NZ Herald
Pilot Rick Lucas clambered uninjured from the chopper after it crashed into Porirua Harbour in May last year. Photo: NZ Herald

Today's crash near Wanaka Airport follows a series of serious and fatal helicopter crashes in recent years.

Helicopter safety has also been in the spotlight, with the Department of Conservation recently deciding to stop using Robinson helicopters to transport its staff because of concerns.

The large number of crashes involving helicopters was also drawing particular attention from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

In briefing papers to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter last year, the body charged with investigating air, rail and maritime transport accidents said of the 13 aviation inquiries at the end of July 2017, 10 involved helicopters.

The commission has also told Genter that three of the helicopter accidents it had dealt with over that past year have been in the tourism sector, which represented a reputational risk.

Despite this, a report last year by the New Zealand Helicopter Association and Civil Aviation Authority found that accident rates had been reducing in the long term.

At that point, the overall fatal accident rate - which reached a three-yearly rate of 2.5 per 100,000 hours after 2014 - had also been reducing, but was still "a way off" the low 2009-2010 rate.

Recent serious helicopter crashes

September 9, 2018: A helicopter crashed in Kinloch, near Taupō, injuring one of its two passengers.

July 21, 2018: Wanaka man Matthew Timothy Wallis was killed when his R44 Robinson helicopter went down at Lake Wanaka.

June 22, 2018: An agricultural spraying helicopter crashed into rugged terrain in the Catlins. The pilot was found "dazed but alert" six hours later by a ground search crew.

June 14, 2018: A helicopter with five people on board crashed at Ngamatea Station between Waiouru and the Kaweka Range, on the Napier-Taihape Road, leaving one man dead, two seriously injured and two others with minor injuries.

May 2, 2017: Pilot Rick Lucas escaped relatively unharmed after his helicopter crashed into the Pauatahanui Inlet, near Wellington.

February 13, 2017: War hero Steve Askin was killed in a helicopter crash while attempting to fight the Port Hills fire near Christchurch. A crash investigator's report found the chopper's pilot-side doors had been removed, contributing to fluctuating pressure inside the cabin.

February 19, 2017: A pilot was seriously hurt when his helicopter went down in hills in the Ruapehu District.

October 31, 2016: Pilot Allan Jessop (42), of Tangiteroria, and forestry worker Derek Hammond (49), of Kauri, died when the Robinson 44 helicopter they were in plunged to the ground in a dense area of the Glenbervie Forest, northeast of Whangarei.

April 30, 2016: Liam Edwards (32), was when it crashed in foggy conditions at midday east of Lindis Pass, Central Otago.

November 21, 2015: A Eurocopter AS350 Astar helicopter, operated by Alpine Adventures on a sightseeing flight, crashed on Fox Glacier. Pilot Mitch Gameren (28), died with tourists Andrew Virco (50), and his partner Katharine Walker (51), of Cambridge, England; Nigel Edwin Charlton (66), and his wife Cynthia (70); and Australians Sovannmony Leang (27), and Josephine Gibson (29).

March 11, 2015: Experienced helicopter pilot Ian John Simcox died after crashing his Robinson 44 helicopter into the sea at French Pass, Marlborough.

February 19, 2015: Flight student James Patterson Gardner (18), and instructor Steven Combe (42), died after their Robinson R44 helicopter crashed during a training flight near Queenstown.

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