Friday, February 20, 2015

Choppers grounded following fatal crash

The Civil Aviation Authority is grounding Robinson R44 series helicopters following a fatal chopper crash this week. 

All Robinson R44 series helicopters fitted with main rotor blades P/N CO16-7, otherwise known as dash 7 blades, have been banned from flying as of today, the CAA said in a statement. 

The directive was issued in response to an investigation into an R44 accident near Queenstown on Thursday, which killed Stephen Anthony Nicholson Combe, aged 42, of Wanaka, and James Louis Patterson-Gardner, aged 18, of Queenstown.

It appeared the aircraft's main rotor blade had failed during flight. 

Patterson-Gardner's mother, Louisa "Choppy" Patterson, is the owner of Over The Top, which operated the helicopter. The firm had an unblemished safety record. 

Today's announcement was to "prevent the possibility of main rotor blade separation and consequent loss of the helicopter", the CAA said. 

Aircraft in remote locations were able to complete one further flight to the nearest appropriate facility, provided they were subject to a detailed visual inspection of the blades. 

"Ensure blade is clean and inspect upper and lower surface paying attention to defects in paint which may signify cracking."

R44 helicopters are four-seat light aircraft produced by the Robinson Helicopter Company and commonly operated in New Zealand. However they are known to have a significantly higher risk of post-crash fires than similar helicopter models.

In April 2013, the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority ordered R44 helicopters' aluminium fuel tanks be replaced with bladder-type fuel tanks to reduce the risk.

Original article can be found at:

Wanaka helicopter pilot Steve Combe and wife Steph.

James Louis Patterson-Gardner, 18, with John Key.

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