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Landing area in Longford helicopter crash was 'inappropriate and wholly unsuitable'

The pilot told inspectors he knew the site was “very tight, but it was certainly do-able”.

Image: AAIU

AN INVESTIGATION INTO a helicopter crash in Longford in 2015 has found the landing location was “inappropriate and wholly unsuitable”.

The incident occurred in July 2015 at Abbeyshrule in Co Longford. The pilot was attempting to land on a canal bank next to the Rustic Inn bar and guesthouse when the helicopter collided with the side of the building.

The pilot and passenger both escaped uninjured but one person who was in the pub at the time sustained minor injuries – a cut below his left eye. Several onlookers who had gathered on the bank ran away as the helicopter collided with the building and an investigation report notes “at least one of them fell as he ran”.

The pilot had been asked by the owner to fly the helicopter to the UK, but it was planned to spend the night in the guesthouse in Abbeyshrule before flying with the owner to the UK.

The report notes prior permission to land on the canal bank was not sought from either Waterways Ireland or from the owner of the restaurant/guesthouse.

The pilot and his passenger arrived just after 8.15pm. CCTV shows the helicopter owner appearing on the canal bank and moving some garden furniture from the bank as the pilot made a second approach. As the helicopter attempted to land, the main rotor blades made contact with the wall of the building causing the tail to swing rapidly towards the wall and collide with it.

Source: Shannonside Northern Sound/YouTube

The tail boom separated from the helicopter, broke apart, and came to rest in the canal. The helicopter rolled to the right and impacted with the canal bank.

The pilot told inspectors he knew the landing site was “very tight, but it was certainly do-able”. He mentioned that he performed two approaches and noted that “there was a lot of wires around too and there’s of course the lamp posts”.

I was very aware of where my blades were in relation to the wooden wall of the hotel building. I was completely aware of it and just in the last couple of seconds, when I was at a skid height of say six inches, I allowed […] the machine to drift into the side of the wall. I am just being frank and forthright with this. There was never any question about the machine being defective in any way. It was just simply a momentary lapse of my concentration.

In its findings, the report notes the location of the attempted landing on a narrow canal bank “was very confined”.

“It contained a number of obstacles and potential aerodynamic hazards. The chosen location was inappropriate and wholly unsuitable for a helicopter landing.”

Read: Man arrested after helicopter crash at Longford pub>

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