Ineffective reconnaissance, glare from the sun, and unexpected position of the wires led to the July 2021 helicopter accident in Brantford, Ontario
Richmond Hill, Ontario, 29 September 2022 — Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (A21O0056) into the July 2021 helicopter accident involving a Robinson R44 helicopter in Brantford, Ontario.
Early morning on 25 July 2021, the Robinson R44 helicopter operated by Apex Helicopters Inc. departed from a field on the outskirts of Brantford, Ontario, on a visual flight rules flight for the purpose of agricultural spraying. Following the airborne reconnaissance of the fields to be sprayed that morning, the pilot began spraying, which requires flying at a height of less than 10 feet above the crops. At the end of the first spray run, the helicopter struck wires, became uncontrollable and crashed approximately 270 feet from the wire strike location. The pilot, who was the sole occupant on board, was seriously injured and the helicopter was destroyed.
The investigation found that the wires the helicopter struck were lower than other nearby wires, and were oriented along the edge of a corn field rather than the more common position alongside a road. As a result, in addition to the wires not being prominent, the pilot did not expect to encounter them in that location. Additionally, the eastbound portion of the reconnaissance flight path and the occurrence flight path were both conducted directly towards the sun; the sun’s glare, possibly combined with a film of spray fluid, dirt, or debris on the helicopter’s windshield, affected the pilot’s forward visibility. The investigation also determined that the pilot’s frequent exposure to the risk of wire strike without a negative outcome likely altered the pilot’s risk perception and negatively influenced the thoroughness of the reconnaissance. The combination of the ineffective reconnaissance, the unexpected location of the wires, the impaired forward visibility, and the reduced time available to detect and avoid the wires resulted in the pilot not seeing the wires during the first spray run. Consequently, the helicopter struck the wires and crashed.
Wearing a flight helmet and fastening the lap belt and shoulder harness helped to reduce the severity of the injuries to the pilot.
The Board is not aware of any safety action taken following this occurrence.
See the investigation page for more information.
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada