An agricultural pilot has escaped serious injury thanks to his decision to wear a helmet in the cockpit.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is using his fortunate example to remind pilots carrying out aerial agricultural work of the importance of wearing a correctly fitting helmet to reduce the risk of a serious head injury after a Dromader aircraft crashed north-west of Emerald Airport in Queensland in 2017.
On 1 December, an M-18A Dromader aircraft was carrying out agricultural spraying when the pilot commenced a turn to continue the back-to-back spray runs when the aircraft pitched down, and the right wing collided with the ground. The aircraft flipped and came to rest inverted facing the opposite direction to the flight path 20–30 metres from the initial contact point.
The pilot suffered minor injuries but was able to exit the aircraft however the aircraft was substantially damaged. The pilot had been wearing a helmet during the flight which was damaged on impact with the aircraft structure.
The ATSB found that the pilot’s flight helmet struck the internals of the cockpit and based on the extent of damage to the helmet, it probably prevented the pilot from receiving a serious head injury.
The International Civil Aviation Organization circular 85-AN/71 Safety in aerial work Part 1. Agricultural Operations discusses the importance of wearing a correctly fitting flight helmet. It states, ‘Pilots operating aircraft in agricultural operations are particularly vulnerable to accidents involving major or fatal head injury.’ The circular also states the importance of making a helmet part of the pilot’s personal flying equipment.