By 2019-09-13 InPortugal

Firefighting pilot’s death described in stark technical detail

Aircraft accident investigators have delivered their report on the truly awful death of firefighting pilot Noel Ferreira exactly a week ago (click here).

The light helicopter he was flying was in the process of dousing a blaze in Sobrado, Valongo, with water.

Ferreira had successfully performed the first water drop, and was positioning himself for the second.

Says the report, he was “aware of the presence and position of the power lines at the scene”.

“After crossing a first signalled very high voltage (400 kV) line, consisting of 14 conductors, the aircraft’s suspended bucket collided with the cables of the second line (220 kV voltage), which is positioned at a lower elevation and at 45 meters horizontal distance from the first, therefore not requiring signalling”.

As the bucket, suspended by a wire cable system, came into contact with the line, the tail rotor of the helicopter hit the ‘guard wire’ which resulted in “an electrical discharge using the helicopter and its accessories as a conductor between the two cables”.

“The steel cables and the bucket support sling system melted with the electric discharge”, while the damaged tail rotor “produced an intense electric arc, consistent with witness reports about the aircraft flash impact on the cables”.

The aircraft loss of control was “inevitable”, the report continues, explaining that after crashing violently to the ground, it set off “an intense fire” that left it “completely consumed”.

“In this process the pilot and sole occupant was fatally injured”.

The investigation carried out by GPIAAF had the sole purpose of “identifying causal and contributing factors” involved in the incident, “in order to recommend, if relevant, any action that it considers necessary to be taken to enhance aviation safety”.

Whether any recommendations will be forthcoming will come clear over the next 12 months, at which point GPIAAF’s final report should be made public.

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