Chopper crash pilot criticised

ROB KIDD
Last updated 11:26 21/03/2013

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A helicopter pilot who crashed off a Northland coast two years ago has been criticised after a review of the incident.

On January 20, 2011 Scott Finlayson, 45, ditched his LongRanger helicopter off Bream Bay after experiencing engine failure.

Witnesses saw the helicopter flying low over Waipu Golf Course then heard a loud bang and a splash out to sea.

The recovery operation involved three Coastguard boats, a surf-lifesaving vessel, the Auckland police launch Deodar, an RNZAF Orion and a helicopter, which eventually winched Finlayson to safety two hours after he entered the water.

He suffered mild hypothermia and was discharged from Whangarei hospital after only a few hours.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission review has made no official recommendations but pointed out a number of safety issues which were ignored.

"The pilot did not take appropriate survival precautions for a flight that was intended to be operated over water," the review said.

"His rescue was greatly assisted by the accident being witnessed and by a favourable on-shore wind."

The commission said Finlayson should have submitted a flight plan, worn a life jacket and activated his emergency locator transmitter.

He had also not undergone helicopter underwater escape training and was lucky witnesses were able to aid rescue teams.

A line, drawn in the sand by witnesses Grant Harper and his wife Margaret, enabled the air force Orion to spot Finlayson, bobbing in the sea as he clung to a piece of wreckage.

"We had a sickening feeling because we knew someone was in the drink," Harper said at the time.

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