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Tribute to John Little – STW helicopter pilot

Posted by ken On March - 12 - 2013


    STW Channel 9 in Perth, Western Australia, encountered a fatal helicopter crash on Monday 9th December 1985, at Spencers Brook, near Clackline, in the wheat belt region. The pilot John Little was killed instantly, when the main rotor blade came through the windscreen. Mr Little (aged 43), a former farmer, was the chief pilot for West Coast Helicopters, as well as a senior officer with the Air Training Corps in WA.


Part 3 - Newspaper Cover.jpg

    The passengers in the Bell Jet Ranger helicopter at the time of the accident were Keith Woodland and Lance Bennett. Television producer Mr Woodland survived the crash with cuts and bruises, but his cameraman Mr Bennett suffered a broken leg and back injuries.


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John Little

    The helicopter was flying at tree-top level alongside a multi-coloured bus for a 15-second film sequence for the 13-part half-hour puppet TV series of children’s television programs called “The Ozlets”.


STW9 Perth Helicopter Crash on Monday 9th December 1985

WA TV History
STW helicopter hits a power line and “barrel-rolled” on to the main road, killing the pilot instantly.


    The helicopter was being used as an airborne filming platform, and was flown at about 30 feet above ground level along the side of a roadway, while the film crew filmed a bus that was travelling along the road. The helicopter was observed to gain altitude and pass over a power line then descend again to 30 feet above ground level. After travelling a further 500 metres the helicopter struck a spur line running from the main power line, pitched nose up before descending out of control and colliding with the ground.

    The wreckage slid 50 metres before coming to rest on the road. The position of both the sun and the support poles of the spur line would have made detection of the line difficult unless the pilot had prior knowledge of its position. The pilot was not seen to conduct a survey of the area for obstacles prior to commencing low level operations. The task required the pilot to concentrate on the bus to the right of the helicopter as well as the flight path ahead.

    Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any malfunction which may have contributed to the occurrence. It appeared that on impact with the spur line one cable contacted the bottom of the windscreen pillar and the other became entangled in the rotor blades. All significant damage to the aircraft appeared to have resulted from ground impact.

Details courtesy of Terry Spence, Bob Penno and Chis Woodland (Chris is Keith’s brother, who was earlier in the helicopter, but at the time of the crash was involved in production activities on the ground). Fellow helicopter pilots Alvan Treweek and Tim Boase provided support, with Alvan’s help most appreciated in conveying this report. The official accident report and parts of the West Australian newspaper story have been quoted.




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