The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) recently reported a simple cause for last year’s close call between a Fairchild SA-227 cargo airplane and a Bell 47G helicopter at the non-tower Ballina/Byron Gateway Airport in New South Wales: the volume of the helicopter’s receiver was turned down.
On October 9, the flight instructor and pilot of the helicopter had completed about 15 to 20 minutes of circuit training at Ballina as the Fairchild prepared for departure on Runway 06. The instructor announced on the common traffic advisory frequency that the helicopter would also remain in a left-hand traffic pattern for Runway 06 and took off. During one pattern the helicopter landed two-thirds of the way down the runway and sat in position while the instructor and pilot briefed for the next pattern.
At about that same time, the Fairchild pilot announced his intention to start taxiing for takeoff to Runway 06. Hearing no response, he was unconcerned about other traffic. Before taking the active, the cargo pilot again announced his intentions but heard no response. Just before rotation, the Fairchild pilot saw the helicopter on the runway but decided to continue the takeoff using a steep climb angle to provide separation.
The helicopter instructor, seeing the turboprop pass closely overhead, attempted to contact the pilot with no response. It was only then that the instructor realized he’d had the volume of the helicopter’s receiver turned down for some extended period of time. No injuries were reported.