17th August

Absence of map data may have contributed to fatal helicopter crash

Photo: Black Rock island and lighthouse. Tiles on the roof of the outhouse exhibit damage 'consistent with being struck by falling debris'

A warning system that increases pilot ‘situational awareness’ did not include Black Rock and its lighthouse or the terrain of the island in its database, according to the preliminary report of the Air Accident Investigation Unit into the crash of Irish Coast Guard helicopter R116 that claimed the lives of Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, co-pilot Capt Mark Duffy, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciarán Smith.

 A digital map that allows the pilot to view a representation of terrain and obstacles ahead is included in the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), ‘provided these are contained in the database’.

 EGPWS manufacturer, Honeywell, informed the Investigation that compliant processes include the ‘integration and validation’ of multiple public and private data sources, furnished by customers, governments and private industry.

 It added however: ‘Honeywell’s selected terrain and obstacle source data do not include Black Rock.’

 And while the island is present in alternate data sets, ‘the actual altitude of Black Rock is considerably higher than what is indicated in these alternate data sets.’

They confirmed the obstacle data for ‘the Ireland region’ is sourced from their ‘Type 1 LOA supplier’. This data ‘does not include obstacles on Black Rock’ Honeywell told the Investigation.

 The EGPWS also includes basic modes that prevent descent into level or evenly sloping terrain. Enhanced or ‘look ahead’ modes are based on Global Positioning System (GPS) position compared to terrain and obstacle databases.

 ‘Look ahead’ modes are intended to prevent the aircraft from running into ‘sharply rising terrain or man-made obstacles’, the report notes.

FULL REPORT: Inshore Ireland (Summer edition)

Blackrock Island

Black Rock island and lighthouse. Tiles on the roof of the outhouse exhibit damage 'consistent with being struck by falling debris'

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