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Information verified through data from accident investigation authorities
Narrative: The pilot of a Garlick Helicopters UH-1H was conducting aerial fire control operations when the helicopter lost power and collided with water near Eden (Ben Boyd Reservoir), New South Wales. The helicopter rolled inverted in the water and the pilot egressed from the helicopter. The pilot had recently completed helicopter underwater escape training (HUET). The pilot received minor injuries and the helicopter was substantially damaged.
The helicopter was subsequently recovered from the reservoir and inspected by the operator’s maintenance organisation. A borescope inspection of the engine compressor section revealed a rotor blade failure in addition to other rotor blade and inlet guide vane damage. An engine teardown was conducted by the manufacturer on 13 and 14 October 2020 at their facility in the United States. In addition to the failed compressor rotor blade, they found blade-tip rubbing of all the axial compressor rotor blades and the centrifugal compressor as a result of contact with their respective shrouds. The forward compressor shaft bevel gear was unevenly worn and exhibited excessive heat. There was a failure of the no. 21 roller bearing, which supported the front of the power turbine shaft, and a failure of the no. 1 ball bearing, which supported the front of the rotating compressor assembly. Both bearing failures exhibited excessive heat and wear, such that they could no longer maintain the centreline of their respective rotating assemblies.
Contributing factors - While hovering over the Ben Boyd reservoir to uplift water for fire control operations, the helicopter's engine failed, which resulted in a collision with water and underwater escape by the pilot. - For reasons undetermined, the no. 1 and no. 21 bearings at the front of the engine failed due to inadequate lubrication. This resulted in contact between the power and compressor shafts, disconnection of rotational drive to the fuel pump and fuel control, and subsequent fuel starvation.
Regular Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) and carrying an emergency breathing system (EBS) can significantly improve the survivability of a helicopter in-water accident or ditching, the ATSB is highlighting. https://t.co/TqM2Fjhdpx