Loss of control, Hélicoptères Guimbal Cabri G2 helicopter, Lelystad Airport
On March 18, 2022, a student pilot experienced a challenging situation during a solo training flight in a Hélicoptères Guimbal Cabri G2 from Lelystad Airport. The pilot initiated a low-speed left turn and suddenly spun, leading the helicopter into an uncontrolled descent. The student pilot executed a left turn following an unclear instruction from the air traffic controller. Expecting a different instruction, the pilot asked the controller to 'repeat' the instruction. The controller then repeated the same instruction. Another helicopter pilot, flying close behind the student pilot’s helicopter, received the same instruction. This pilot realized the instruction was incorrect and requested 'confirmation' of the instruction. Subsequently, the air traffic controller corrected the instruction. As the student helicopter pilot began a low-speed left turn, he lost control of the helicopter, leading to an uncontrolled descent. Due to the student pilot’s correct actions, the aircraft was safely landed.
Repeat or Confirm?
The helicopter pilot received instructions from the air traffic controller to fly a right downwind for runway 05. The pilot expected a left downwind instruction and asked the air traffic controller to repeat the instruction. The air traffic controller repeated the same instruction, after which the pilot flew to the left.
Shortly thereafter, an instructor in another helicopter, coincidentally flying behind the student pilot, also received instructions from the air traffic controller to fly a right downwind. The instructor immediately realized that this instruction was incorrect and asked the air traffic controller for confirmation of the instruction. The air traffic controller then corrected his earlier instruction and indicated that a left downwind was to be flown. The student pilot from the first helicopter also heard this instruction and indicated his confusion. Then the air traffic controller also instructed him to fly a left downwind, upon which the student pilot made a left turn. As the speed of the helicopter had decreased to zero, the student pilot lost control over this left turn and the helicopter entered a rapidly descending rotation. The student pilot responded adequately to the rotation and regained control, after which the student pilot landed safely. Although both pilots realized that the air traffic controller's instruction was incorrect, the student pilot asked the air traffic controller to repeat the instruction. The other pilot asked the air traffic controller for confirmation. Both words (repeat and confirm) have different meanings. Reluctance to seek confirmation or clarification can lead to acceptance of incorrect instruction or assumptions about their meaning.