Photo - TAIC investigators inspect the helicopter wreckage on the beach
TAIC investigators inspect the helicopter wreckage on the beach | Photo: RNZ | Tracy Neal
Eurocopter EC120-B, ZK-HEK, loss of control in flight and collision with terrain, Kekerengu, 50 km northeast of Kaikoura, 15 December 2020
Occurrence Date
Report Publication Date
What happened
On Tuesday 15 December 2020, the pilot was using EC120-B helicopter ZK-HEK to fly their family and a friend from Rangiora to Kekerengu north of Kaikoura for lunch at a café. Flying towards the beach, the helicopter suddenly started yawing left and descending. The helicopter crashed on the beach.

The two adults, including the pilot, were killed and the helicopter was destroyed. The three children were seriously or moderately injured but survived.

Why it happened
The weather was suitable for the flight with a moderate northeasterly onshore breeze blowing. The pilot had not landed at the café before and was conducting a reconnaissance of the intended landing area. The helicopter slowed as it was turned towards the beach and downwind for a second pass at low level. The slow airspeed combined with increasing power caused the helicopter to suddenly yaw uncontrolled to the left, very likely startling the pilot.

The rate of yaw increased, and the pilot was unable to regain control before the helicopter crashed onto the beach. The impact forces were determined to be non-survivable. However, the three children did survive, albeit with serious or moderate injuries, very likely because of their smaller physical size and mass.

The investigation determined that the pilot did not pick up on the visual indications about the performance of the helicopter, resulting in it slowing at a critical phase of the flight. The pilot’s inexperience was a key factor.

The Commission made no new recommendations.

What we can learn
A pilot qualification, licence or aircraft-type rating does not in itself confer expertise. Pilots need to be familiar with the aircraft they are flying and their own capability as they gain experience. Pilots also need to ensure they are fully aware of the increased risks of flying at low level and monitor the performance of their aircraft accordingly.

Who may benefit
All pilots, including instructors and examiners, may benefit from the findings and lessons in this report.
Kekerengu River Mouth (-42.004277,174.011411) [may be approximate]