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Rescue helicopter collides with PA 28 near Karlsruhe (and electronic conspicuity)

Heard about this on the radio yesterday. A PA28 collided with an EC135. Two persons on board of each aircraft died.

I wonder what happened. I once had an airprox during PPL training with a rescue helicopter near EDWF. They were inbound to land while we were just turning downwind after departure. The heli just cut through the traffic circuit at random. My FI did only see them after I started turning to avoid.

Novice pilot
EDVM Hildesheim, Germany

Very sad.

The first Q I ask is who had a transponder (and was using it) and who had TCAS.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Is it just an impression of me, or are mid-airs and airproxes almost universally involving helicopters, these days?

And in more than one case, helicopters flown by professionals – even more worrying.

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

That is why I asked about transponders and TCAS.

Any turbine helicopter costs sooo much money – 7 digits is the starting point – that spending some 15k on TCAS (or TAS; the more “proper” name because “TCAS” is more usually involved with a Resolution Advisory capable system) is a complete and total no-brainer.

In fact it is even more of a no-brainer when one considers that helis usually fly very low down (for various reasons; sightseeing, training, cultural, to get below bad wx, mission profile being short legs, and it is not illegal to go below 500ft) so the risk of a collision is vastly higher since so much GA activity is down there.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I would say that most helicopters in Germany, rescue helicopters especially, fly at 1000ft or lower. Oftentimes they don’t appear on flightradar24 even in areas where FR24 shows all other traffic observable from the ground. We get a lot of air ambulance traffic here in Hannover, most of whom go straight to the hospital I work in, so my statement is mainly based on observation from the ground.

I reckon these helis are less dangerous than other traffic for enroute GA airplanes because they simply fly too low. Near airfields that possibly increases the odds of collisions though, more so because both police and rescue helis are usually “on a mission” and will fly straight towards their destination without avoiding zones of frequent GA traffic.

Note that I don’t want to imply any kind of recklessness or wrongdoing here, as an emergency doctor I know about the importance of getting to the patient in critical condition ASAP. This emphasizes the importance of traffic warning systems for these aircraft as noted by Peter, however.

Novice pilot
EDVM Hildesheim, Germany

On another forum, the Pa28 was said to have descended through cloud. Helicopters in Scotland are often above GA common heights, and often IFR in IMC.

EGPE, United Kingdom

the eyewitness was wrong – w/x reports show the following weather at Mannheim Airport, slightly north of Speyer airport where the accident occured (more or less in the s/e traffic pattern).

METAR EDFM 231120Z 20006KT 170V230 9999 OVC048 08/06 Q1027=

METAR EDFM 231150Z 20006KT 170V230 9999 OVC048 08/06 Q1026=

METAR EDFM 231220Z 21006KT 170V250 9999 OVC045 08/06 Q1026=

EDxx, Germany

Peter wrote:

The first Q I ask is who had a transponder (and was using it) and who had TCAS.

We don’t know yet. The helicopter apparently had some form of FLARM installed, the Arrow had a mode S Transponder, whether it emitted ADS-B is unknown, but it was not visible on FR24. The Arrow appears not to have had any anti collision warner installed.

Both were on a training mission. The helo was actually doing circuits at Speyer during a type transition training. The Arrow came from Basel and did a training flight for an aspiring FI. They both were in contact with Speyer Info, the last communication with the Arrow was “I don’t see any helicopter” So apparently they were given traffic information.

The FI on the Arrow was VERY experienced indeed, retired airline pilot, FI since decades and very well known and respected throughout the Swiss aviation community, who is in shock at his passing.

LSZH, Switzerland

Until last November, helicopters and fixed-wing had to use the same circuit and altitudes by BCAA mandate. I can tell you from experience that a slow moving helicopter is very difficult to spot against a city background even if you know it is there. A few years before that helicopters had their own smaller and opposite circuit, this was much easier as long as they did not cross the runway axis. Since November we now again have separate circuits. Keeping a good lookout is number one priority, ADS-B will be a big help if everyone is equipped.


dirkdj wrote:

ADS-B will be a big help if everyone is equipped.

As this accident seems to be happening too, too often (we had a very similar accident in the UK very recently, with equally experienced pilots) maybe we, as an industry, need to put our qualms aside and our hands in our pockets and embrace ADS-B out and in wholeheartedly.

EGKB Biggin Hill
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