Helicopter Crash

Submitted: Monday, Jul 06, 2020 at 12:17
ThreadID: 140215 Views:1728 Replies:8 FollowUps:22
Sad to here that Troy Thomas was the pilot killed in WA as the former owner/operator of horizontal falls sea planes I had flown with him many times, RIP mate.
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Reply By: RMD - Monday, Jul 06, 2020 at 13:08

Monday, Jul 06, 2020 at 13:08
Sad story indeed, but I notice it is yet another Robinson helicopter involved. It must have been a later model because the earlier ones used to crash similarly and fall on their side, split the fuel tank and incinerate the occupants. Not in this case so the forced modifications to Robinsons have at least allowed some survivors.
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Reply By: Mark C9 - Monday, Jul 06, 2020 at 18:40

Monday, Jul 06, 2020 at 18:40
Rule No 1 is never fly in a robbo. they tell us they are safe NOW after the fixes but never fly in one
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Monday, Jul 06, 2020 at 19:54

Monday, Jul 06, 2020 at 19:54
Absolutely.
I'm glad I ain't too scared to be lazy
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Follow Up By: Jarse - Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 07:05

Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 07:05
Absolutely. I saw one self-destruct on the helipad at Bankstown in the early 90's and vowed never to fly in one. Ever.
They're just to flimsy and frail IMO.
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Follow Up By: Mark C9 - Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 07:55

Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 07:55
Just watch one running at idle on the pad to see how they almost shake themselves apart, and thats before they get airborne.
Forget trying to take decent photos from one, talk about camera shake
I was in Canada a while ago and they had 3 crash near Vancouver in the month i was there
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Follow Up By: Banjo (WA) - Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 09:00

Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 09:00
If it's true that half of all helicopter sales are Robinson's, then why are pilots buying them?
Do they have a death wish?
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Follow Up By: Jarse - Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 09:35

Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 09:35
Pilots don't usually buy helicopters. Companies do, then pay (usually) pilots to fly them. If you're an out of work helo pilot looking for a job and there's a job flying a Robbo - most won't pass it up.
I've flown in a few helicopters over the years, and have never been in a Robbo. For tourist flights I check the type before booking. If it's a Robbo, I find another operator or don't do the flight.
That's my personal take on Robbo's :)
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Follow Up By: Member - rocco2010 - Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 09:51

Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 09:51
Many Robinson crashes involve aerial mustering which is a high risk activity in an environment where maintenance isn’t always what it should be.
A friend of a friend died in a post crash fire a few years ago before the replacement of the Robinson’s aluminium fuel tanks was mandatory.
Given control of the the helicopter was lost only a few metres from the ground the accident was most likely very survivable. Sad.
I flew in a Robinson over the Bungles, being fully aware of the type’s reputation.
I was maybe more concerned when I saw the pilot, a young Dutch girl who looked barely out of high school!
I was very happy with my photos, no obvious camera shake.
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Follow Up By: Mark C9 - Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 13:03

Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 13:03
Robbo cost around $300k, Jet ranger $1.5M
Once licence is obtained, most kids head nth to do muster work where they are almost guaranteed work
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Follow Up By: Member - David M (SA) - Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 14:28

Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 14:28
"when I saw the pilot, a young Dutch girl who looked barely out of high school! I was very happy with my photo's.
Your supposed to take photo's of the scenery Rocco. However you did well to control any shaking.
Dave.
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Follow Up By: Member - rocco2010 - Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 14:35

Tuesday, Jul 07, 2020 at 14:35
Ahh ... David, that's so funny.
Made my day.
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Follow Up By: Member - J&A&KK - Wednesday, Jul 08, 2020 at 19:36

Wednesday, Jul 08, 2020 at 19:36
As the saying goes a helicopter is 30,000 nuts and bolts flying in formation. The instant you add a piston engine there is an increase in vibration when compared to a turbine. As in all aircraft weight is a penalty and so the Robinsons have to be light weight. When things go pear shaped and you hit something, the light structure is no help.

It will be interesting to see what the ATSB finds. My guess based on the Broome control tower comments is that something broke just after takeoff which is usually the worst time for something to go wrong.

Terribly sad for family and friends.

Having been involved in aviation for 40 years I will only fly for pleasure in a turbine engined aircraft, fixed wing or rotary.
John
"There are naive questions, tedious questions...There is no such thing as a dumb question" Carl Sagan

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Reply By: Member - Vince M (NSW) - Wednesday, Jul 08, 2020 at 09:37

Wednesday, Jul 08, 2020 at 09:37
Sardistics say you are far more likely to die driving your car/patrol/hi-lux etc. then flying in a R44, so for a lot of you the risk will be just to high & you will just have to stay at home ? that's OK more space in the camp grounds & the POST was not about the type of helicopter, it was about the sad loss of a family guy, who left school early loved the outdoors & sacrificed a lot to make a business that brought much joy & allowed a lot more people see an area that was extremely difficult to experience, I was lucky enough to go many times to the horizontal water falls before any/much tourism took place & it had to be planned well. I for one enjoyed the ease & comfort he made it for me to take my family & friends out several times & show them, a lot safer than travelling by boat that I have done many times small & large
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Follow Up By: axle - Wednesday, Jul 08, 2020 at 12:22

Wednesday, Jul 08, 2020 at 12:22
Try not let it get to you Vince, in this particular case i know its hard.


Its unbelievable how things get turned around in this place ,its not what it used to be sadly.


Cheers Axle.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Wednesday, Jul 08, 2020 at 13:38

Wednesday, Jul 08, 2020 at 13:38
.
I believe it"s society that is changing Axle, not just "this place".
Cheers
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Follow Up By: Banjo (WA) - Thursday, Jul 09, 2020 at 07:57

Thursday, Jul 09, 2020 at 07:57
I think that this thread is just like any verbal conversation.

It meanders from here, to there, and then on to other places.

The sadness that Vince, and others are experiencing, is not pleasant but in no way does the meandering of the thread denigrate or minimise that.

The reality is that while the accident is a tragedy for those who know the individuals, for most of us it is just another report of a statistic.
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Follow Up By: RMD - Thursday, Jul 09, 2020 at 13:38

Thursday, Jul 09, 2020 at 13:38
Because we travel in vehicles most of the time, most of our lives, and not in aircraft, of course we are more likely to be involved/die in a vehicle accident if it is to be that way. However, if travelling by helicopter the safety margin is probably less. The projected meaning of opinions and anecdotal info is, if it is a Robinson helicopter the danger/risk level increases over that or other helicopters because of the frequency of the accidents for that make of chopper. The more common they are the more news about them. A well known fact world wide.
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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Thursday, Jul 09, 2020 at 16:27

Thursday, Jul 09, 2020 at 16:27
Be careful with statistics :)
https://www.atsb.gov.au/media/36750/Light_utility_helico.pdf
Page 1 shows that amongst light helicopters, the R22 has less accidents per 100,000hrs than any of the other 3 between 1990 and 2002.


I have spent a bit of time in an R22 on a cattle station. The owner/pilot refused to carry any passenger if he was mustering.

Cheers,
Peter
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Follow Up By: Winner W - Friday, Jul 10, 2020 at 08:03

Friday, Jul 10, 2020 at 08:03
It is interesting to analise those numbers . Pilot error vs mechanical failure .
RIP to the deceased . Hope the survivors pull through.
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Reply By: Member - McLaren3030 - Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 08:02

Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 08:02
Interesting to read all the negative comments in regard to the Robinson R44, yet it seems to be the most popular helicopter in the outback when it comes to mustering.

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Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 08:49

Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 08:49
I reckon the smaller R22 is used more for mustering, rather than the larger R44.
Cheers,
Peter
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Reply By: RMD - Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 09:39

Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 09:39
The air crash investigation has just released info which says a pilot reported unusual vibes in the craft 2 days before, Crews balanced the tail rotor but apparently didn't look further. Seemed ok and sent it out. Tail rotor assembly gearbox blew off the boom shortly after takeoff that day. If the fault was that bad to shatter the entire rotor and gearbox completely off the chopper, they couldn't have looked into any possible faults of vibes much at all. I don't want to have them service any of my gear. It must have been detectable if straight after it, it loses the whole thing off the tail due to destructive vibe failure.
I noticed in the photo of the report that both blades of the tail rotor were still attached to the pitch control mechanism and shaft and right angle drive gearbox, having been examined and balanced they should not have been the problem but the tail boom mount plate is where the tail rotor gearbox departed from. Sort of indicates bolting was at fault.
Maybe the Robinson is far better than reports say and it is the servicing and repairs which are downing them.
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Reply By: Member - J&A&KK - Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 12:09

Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 12:09
For those of you interested here is the link to the ATSB preliminary report:

https://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2020/aair/ao-2020-033/

It appears to be a catastrophic failure in one of the tail rotor subassembly components. Looks like something seized. Gearbox? No point in speculating. I think ATSB will discover the cause of this crash very quickly.

I feel so sorry for the pilot. Low altitude, rotor pitch and power up for the climb and then bang no tail rotor. Would have been a very violent yaw. Horrible set of circumstances for a pilot.
John
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Reply By: Zippo - Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 12:19

Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 12:19
For those who don't receive the ATSB reports directly, here is a link to their preliminary.

Notable is that the first pilot reported not only vibration but also a "tapping" felt via the rotor pedals. Maintenance check-balanced the tail rotor and found nothing amiss. The deceased pilot also noted the vibration AFTER the maintenance. The failure was shortly after take-off on the first flight after maintenance.

Without being specifically familiar with their rotor gearbox, the tapping in any gearbox would suggest to me a fractured gear/tooth, and failure by lock-up would certainly cause the type of separation experienced.
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Follow Up By: RMD - Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 13:37

Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 13:37
I agree, and if the service people had checked the lube fluid for any debris with the symptoms already given to them not much investigation was done, otherwise they would have detected the source of the issue, surely. In Chinooks they have a detector plug which when sufficient metallic particle matter is present it sets off and alarm. They don't want catastrophic failure of the main rotor gearbox.
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Follow Up By: Member - J&A&KK - Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 19:05

Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 19:05
Hi Zippo

Similar post to mine and similar conclusion. To have the whole tail rotor assembly torn from the empennage points very strongly to a gearbox failure. Not sure what else could break that then results in all that power tearing things apart at that point in the drive line.

Cheers John
John
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Follow Up By: Member - J&A&KK - Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 19:21

Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 at 19:21
Hi RMD

The R44 has chip detectors on both the main rotor and tail rotor gearboxes. This is usually the case on all modern rotaries.

From my personal experience they are a bit oversensitive and sometimes set off the master alarm for no apparent reason. Land as soon as you can after it goes off, pull out the plug, examine carefully, find nothing give it a wipe and off you go.

So if the tail rotor gearbox was decaying and making metal then the chip detector must have been U/S. It is a possibility but I am leaning towards a catastrophic component failure.

If you want to do some research the following link may be helpful:

http://rotorcorp.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/r44_mm_general.pdf

Cheers John
John
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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Sunday, Jul 12, 2020 at 10:28

Sunday, Jul 12, 2020 at 10:28
Page 1.4, para 1.115 indicates a possibility. Varnish on a chip detector, rendering it ineffective.

So many possibilities, of course, so anything we say here is mere speculation.

Regardless, the result is most distressing.
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Follow Up By: RMD - Monday, Jul 13, 2020 at 20:21

Monday, Jul 13, 2020 at 20:21
After viewing the ATSB pictures it looks as though some broken edges of the rear gearbox mounting were cracked before total failure. That may explain the ticking sound experienced by both pilots. Just a possibility but Canberra will find the issue.
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Reply By: OzzieCruiser - Sunday, Jul 12, 2020 at 12:15

Sunday, Jul 12, 2020 at 12:15
That report flags something to me - the vibration was reported earlier, the maintenance people looked at it and it seemed OK on a ground run, then the pilot then noticed the vibration was still there but then chose to to go on the flight with his daughter embarked, noting the flight manual indicates not to fly or land immediately if vibrations are detected.

So while there is clearly a mechanical issue, there is also an issue of pilot error with disastrous results.
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