Report on aviation accident in Isfjorden on Svalbard, near Barentsburg, 26 October 2017, with Mil Mi 8AMT, RA-22312 oprerated by Convers Avia Airlines JSC

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Description

On 26 October 2017 a helicopter with route number CVS312 was en route from Pyramiden to Cape Heer with eight people on board. The helicopter was last in contact with AFIS at Svalbard Airport Longyearbyen at 15:06 local time when asked to contact "Barentsburg" landing site. Shortly afterwards, the helicopter was reported missing. The helicopter was found at a depth of 209 meters approx. 2 km outside Heerodden. One deceased person was found on the seabed about 150 meters from the helicopter wreck. The other seven were not found, even after extensive searches along major parts of the coastline in Isfjorden.

Investigation into the accident indicates that the accident was caused by loss of visual references during the last part of the approach to the Russian helicopter base at Heerodden. There were varying visibility conditions, and visibility conditions were reported well below the minima established for approach. Despite this, the pilots continued their approach and lost visual references and crashed. All the occupants had evacuated the helicopter. None of them wore neither life jackets nor survival suits. It can be assumed that after a few minutes they became so cold that they could not stay on the surface due to air and water temperature and sea state.

The helicopter was not equipped with neither life raft nor emergency float equipment. It was quickly filled with water due to damage caused by the impact, and probably tipped around quickly before it sank.

The investigation has not revealed any technical problems on the helicopter that could explain the cause of the incident.

The investigation has revealed that there are no defined requirements in Norwegian regulations, which is also applicable to Svalbard, for emergency equipment in multi-engine helicopters that operates in high risk areas. The AIBN believes that emergency equipment requirements should be defined for multi-engine helicopters flying in such locations.

Convers Avia’s helicopter operations in Svalbard were based on visual flight conditions (VMC) and visual flight rules (VFR). With the rapidly climatic changes that are on Svalbard, the AIBN believes that helicopter operations in the polar night should be performed by pilots with instrument ratings in helicopters with suitable instrumentation (IFR).

The investigation also revealed conditions at the Convers Avia's base at Heerodden which indicate that the company's standards were not systematically complied with. The AIBN believes that Russian aviation authorities and the helicopter company must follow up the organization in Svalbard to ensure compliance with government regulations and company requirements.

Safety recommendation

Safety recommendation SL No. 2020/03T

The helicopter accident with Mil MI 8AMT RA-22312 in Isfjorden on 26 October 2017 occurred when approaching Heerodden. The AIBN's investigation found that the Convers Avia Airlines JSC organization at “Barentsburg” landing site at Heerodden had developed deviations in relation to the airline's procedures and standards, despite the fact that the base is subject to quarterly internal audits.

The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that Convers Avia Airlines JSC conducts a systematic audit of the company’s organization at “Barentsburg” landing site at Heerodden and implements measures to achieve an expected good safety standard.

Safety recommendation SL No. 2020/04T

The helicopter accident with Mil MI 8AMT RA-22312 in Isfjorden on 26 October 2017 occurred when approaching Heerodden. The AIBN's investigation found that the airline’s organization at the “Barentsburg” landing site at Heerodden had developed deviations in relation to the airline's procedures and standards, despite the fact that the base is subject to quarterly internal audits.

The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the State Civilian Aviation Authority – SCAA ensure that Convers Avia Airlines JSC conducts a systematic audit, and defines expected safety standard and implements measures to obtain the expected good safety standard.

Safety recommendation SL No. 2020/05T

The helicopter accident with Mil MI 8AMT RA-22312 in Isfjorden on 26 October 2017 occurred when approaching Heerodden. No one on board used survival suits nor were they wearing life vests. The helicopter was not equipped with liferaft nor emergency floats. Today's national regulations do not set requirements for such emergency equipment for multi-engine helicopters when flying more than 10 minutes from the coastline. For single-engine aircraft, there is a requirement for such equipment when flying more than 3 minutes from the coastline. The AIBN's investigation shows the need for an extension of the existing regulatory requirements to also apply to multi-engine helicopters.

The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends that the Civil Aviation Authority Norway extend the national regulations so that requirements are set for the use of adequate emergency equipment for all types of helicopters in mountains and desolate areas and on Svalbard. In addition, emergency floats should be used on helicopters when flying over sea irrespective of distance to the coastline on Svalbard.

Safety recommendation SL No. 2020/06T

The helicopter accident with Mil MI 8AMT RA-22312 in Isfjorden on 26 October 2017 near Heerodden, occurred during weather conditions that were reported to be significantly lower than the published weather minima for “Barentsburg” landing site at Heerodden. Convers Avia Airlines JSC allowed only VFR flights on Svalbard. In the demanding weather and at dusk, the pilots lost their visual references and subsequently lost control of the helicopter. Both rapidly changing weather and light conditions are risk factors that indicate the need to be able to fly according to instrument rules. The AIBN sees the need for all helicopter operations that take place during the polar night on Svalbard to be made with helicopters and crews capable of flying according to instrument flight rules.

The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommends the Civil Aviation Authority Norway to extend its regulations to helicopter operations on Svalbard that take place during the polar night to be adapted for instrument flight based for instance on GNSS PinS operations.

Location
In the sea near Heerodden near Barentsburg, Svalbard
Occurrence date
26.10.2017
Aircraft
Øvrige helikoptre
Operator
Convers Avia Airlines JSC
Registration
RA-22312
Meteorological conditions
IMC
County
Svalbard/Jan Mayen
Type of occurrence
Accident
Type of operation
Commercial, other
Category of operation
Heavy, helicopter (> 2 250kg)
Aircraft category
Helicopter, Multi-engine, Turboprop/turboshaft
FIR/AOR
ENOB (Bodø FIC/OFIR)
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