In February 2012, I wrote about an Australian crash that killed two film makers sparking a debate about the safety of Robinson helicopters. Now, another crash in March of this year has added fuel to the fire (so to speak) and is prompting the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (“CASA”) to take more tangible measures.
Four retired scientists were killed when the Robinson R44 helicopter in which they were flying clipped a tree and burst into flames upon impact with the ground. The helicopter was equipped with an aluminum fuel tank, which is known to be a potential fire hazard. Robinson makes a newer bladder-style fuel tank that can be retro-fitted onto its helicopters and which significantly improves safety.
In response to the March 2013 crash and the fact that Robinson helicopters seem to have a much higher post-impact fire rate than other helicopters of similar size, CASA is now warning Australian R44 operators that their helicopters will be grounded at the end of April unless they outfit them with the safer fuel tank.
This issue is not specific to Australia, of course, as Robinson helicopters are flown worldwide. Australia, however, seems to be much more proactive than other countries when it comes to aviation safety. This is a lesson that U.S. aviation authorities would do well to learn.
If you have been involved in an aviation accident or know someone who has, feel free to call William Angelley at (214) 826-5400 or email me. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.