By By Emma Kelly, Australia and Pacific Correspondent | June 5, 2014
New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority is reviewing safety awareness training involving Robinson helicopters in the country over the next 12 to 15 months after a recently-released final report into a fatal accident involving a R22 in April 2011 raised safety concerns.
On April 27, 2011, an instructor and a student died when an R22 crashed during a cross-country training flight in the Southern Alps. It broke up in-flight after it operated in a high-risk situation – at an altitude of about 5,500 feet, close to its maximum permissible weight and entering an area of moderate to extreme turbulence, according to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC). The in-flight break up was caused by the main rotor blades deviating from their normal operating plane of rotation and striking the tail boom, causing a separation of the tail rotor assembly. The investigation highlighted a number of safety issues, including a lack of knowledge in the local industry that meant the instructor may not have been fully aware of the risks involved in flying the R22 near maximum weight at high altitude and in moderate to severe turbulence; the format of the R22 flight manual and terminology; and that the rate of R22 in-flight break-up accidents in New Zealand had not been significantly reduced by a local version of the U.S. FAA hazard mitigation measures designed to prevent such accidents.
The report found that New Zealand’s regulatory system has not properly publicized the safety-critical limitations of the R22 and not adequately controlled the standard of instructor and pilot training as has been done in the U.S. CAA’s review will cover Robinson safety awareness training in New Zealand with a view to facilitate the development and adoption of best practice and look at relevant improvements to enhance the operational safety of Robinson helicopters in New Zealand.
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