The east MacDonnell Ranges, the region which Mr Taylor crashed his helicopter in 2018. Picture: IAN DOWNES
The east MacDonnell Ranges, the region which Mr Taylor crashed his helicopter in 2018. Picture: IAN DOWNES

Pilot was flying too low: crash report

A PILOT who was killed when his helicopter crashed near an outback station in Central Australia had alcohol in his system but it was not the only reason the chopper hit the ground, the final report into the accident has found.

On November 24, 2018 helicopter pilot Campbell Douglas Taylor, 47, was killed and his 23-year-old passenger critically injured after the chopper crashed northeast of Alice Springs.

An investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) found Mr Taylor had a 0.14 blood alcohol level detected by toxicology reports, but said it was not the main factor which let to the accident.

The report said Mr Taylor was flying the helicopter at a low level when it encountered a downdraft, with "insufficient height to recover, resulting in a collision with terrain".

It said another factor which lead to an increased risk was he did not consult weather forecast data before departure, leading him to choose a flight path through the MacDonnell Ranges that was "not appropriate for the forecast wind conditions and turbulence".

The report also said the impact-activated emergency locator transmitter on the helicopter was selected off, increasing the risk of a delayed emergency response.

Mr Taylor and the passenger were tasked to help recover a vehicle near Quartz Hill, about 63km from Ambalindum Station.

Mr Taylor was employed by Ambalindum Station, owned by agriculture company Hewitt Cattle Australia, for general flying duties, which included cattle mustering and inspecting water bore sites.

He had also intended to visit bore sites during his flight.

There were no operational faults found with the helicopter, however the report said Mr Taylor's private pilot license (helicopter) and low level and arterial mustering qualifications were at the time invalid.

Following the accident, it was revealed Mr Taylor had been out of jail for under 18 months after he was convicted of perjury and fabricating evidence at a coronial inquest into a gyrocopter death in 2011, which he was implicated in.

The ATSB report stated after the 2018 crash, Hewitt Cattle Australia began to contract out the majority of its aviation operations to Air Operator Certificate holders, including all rotary operations as a safety measure, and conducted a review of its aviation safety system.

Originally published as Pilot was flying too low: crash report