1-Mar-2021 Source: HeliHub.com
French aircraft investigators BEA are looking into a serious incident which occurred on 11th February off the French port of Le Havre. An Airbus AS365N3 operated by the Le Havre port authority was on one of their regular marine pilot flights, outbound to a ship in the English Channel (“La Manche” to the French) when the helicopter became alarmingly low.
From an intial cruise level of 700 ft, BEA reports that the aircraft descended to just 60 ft from the water surface before height was regained. The autopilot had been maintaining the direction of flight but not the altitude. No information has been provided on whether the autopilot had been set and wasn’t working correctly, or just hadn’t been set to monitor altitude.
It is of particular concern the pilots did not respond to the altitude alarms set at 500 and 300 ft. It took one of the passengers to warn the crew of the low flight height. The pilot then regained height and the mission continued without further event. No information has been released about the time of day of the flight or the sea state to allow any comment to be made on visibility, vertical reference etc.
Well-versed in helicopter operations, the Port of Le Havre has operated a helicopter for transferring marine pilots for 45 years, having started with an Alouette III in 1976.
The Port of Le Havre is managed by the state agency Grand Port Maritime du Havre. It is the second largest commercial port in France in terms of overall tonnage, and is the largest container port in the country. It is also a major cruise liner port.
Images from Port of Le Havre website