Queenstown heli-boss wrangles with CAA

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A Queenstown helicopter boss is at loggerheads with the Government’s aviation watchdog over a chopper mishap near Glenorchy. 

Over The Top owner Louisa Patterson (right) says a Robinson R44 owned by her firm was parked on Mt Alfred on January 11 when “an unpredictable wind gust caused the blade to flap and contact the tail”. 

Patterson says her pilot noticed a nick on the tail boom when doing a pre-flight check. 

The helicopter had flown a Telecom maintenance crew to the mountain to check on an internet aerial hit by lightning. 

Patterson says her chopper was airlifted out next day then trucked to Queenstown for repairs. 

Approached by Mountain Scene this week, the Civil Aviation Authority confirms it’s investigating “an accident”. 

Patterson is disappointed CAA calls it “an accident”, maintaining it was just an “incident” based on CAA’s own guidelines. “As an incident, this will not affect the safety record that Over The Top are so proud of, having yet again received the Helicopter Association International operator safety award.” 

She expects her chopper to be back in service within a fortnight. 

CAA communications boss Mike Richards: “The CAA has recorded the accident involving the Robinson R44 as an accident because it fits the definition of an accident.” 

He says Over The Top reported the episode to CAA with this description: ‘Main rotor blade struck the tail boom during start-up due to a wind gust. Significant damage was caused to the tail boom, with associated damage to the rotor blades.’ 

“The aircraft operator did the right thing and notified the CAA promptly. 

“We have assigned an investigator to look into the report.”