Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Lawsuit Against Robinson Claims Defects Caused Fatal R66 Crash

Robinson R66,   N117TW:   Fatal  accident occurred June 23, 2016  in  Wikieup,  Mohave County, Arizona 

The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, P.C., has handled some of the largest airline disasters and aviation accidents in history. Our team of lawyers, investigators and other professionals know what it takes to prepare for successful resolution after all types of crashes from single occupant accidents to mass disasters.


Guidance Air Services:  Director of Commercial Operations Tim Brown and Chief Instructor Pilot Dave Cormey.


June 25, 2018 - Los Angeles, California - - The families of two highly experienced pilots who died in a 2016 helicopter crash near Wikieup, Arizona filed a lawsuit against Robinson Helicopter Company, alleging, among other things, defective rotor blades on the company's R66 helicopter contributed to the cause of the fatal crash.

The helicopter crash lawsuit (case no. BC711330) was filed Friday in Superior Court for the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

The plaintiffs are Charlyn Marie Cormey, surviving spouse of deceased helicopter pilot David Scott Cormey, and their minor child; and Wendi Brown on behalf of her minor children and heirs to deceased helicopter pilot Timothy Shawn Brown.

The Cormey and Brown families are represented in this case by A. Ilyas Akbari and Ronald L.M. Goldman of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman.

The defendant is Torrance, California-based Robinson Helicopter Company. The lawsuit against Robinson seeks wrongful death damages based on the following causes of action:
  • Strict Product Liability
  • Breach of Warranties
  • Negligence
2016 Robinson Helicopter Crash in Arizona Kills Two Highly Experienced Pilots

On June 23, 2016, pilots David Cormey and Timothy Brown were flying a cross-country positioning flight in a Robinson R66 helicopter (FAA registration no. N117TW) from Prescott, Arizona to Riverside, California as part of their employment with Guidance Air Service, a leading FAA approved helicopter flight school, charter service facility and full-service maintenance repair and overhaul facility located in Prescott, Arizona.

The purpose of the trip was for Timothy Brown to take a routine Part 135.293 check ride with an inspector from the FAA Flight Standards District Office in Riverside, California.

David Cormey, a very experienced, pilot, was seated in the left seat. He had accumulated approximately 5,220 flight hours and was the Chief Instructor Pilot at Guidance Air Service.

Timothy Brown, a certified commercial pilot, was seated in the right seat. He was a helicopter flight instructor with approximately 8,000 flight hours. Mr. Brown was the Director of Commercial Operations at Guidance Air Service.

Approximately one hour after departing from Prescott, during straight and level cruise flight, the helicopter apparently experienced a mast bumping event where the main rotor blades contacted the airframe, resulting in a sudden and immediate catastrophic in-flight breakup in the middle of the desert. David Cormey and Timothy Brown were killed in the crash.

Allegations in Lawsuit Against Robinson Helicopter Co.

According to the lawsuit, a SPOT device (a handheld GPS tracking device that uses a satellite network enabling text messaging and GPS tracking services) was present on the helicopter. The tracking plot below, taken from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) docket, shows the R66 in straight and level flight heading directly toward Riverside, California:



The NTSB investigation report concluded that the helicopter experienced a mast bumping event causing a catastrophic in-flight breakup of the helicopter.



The debris field (pictured above) was consistent with an in-flight breakup, measuring approximately 750 yards long and 150 yards wide, with parts of the helicopter scattered throughout.

The lawsuit alleges that Robinson helicopters, including the R66 model, are especially susceptible to catastrophic mast bumping events due to, among other things, the design of the rotor head and main rotor blade system.

The plaintiffs claim that the frequency and severity of mast bumps in a Robinson helicopter are much higher than its competitors.

"The time to overhaul the design of the main rotor system in the Robinson family of helicopters is long overdue," says helicopter crash attorney Ilyas Akbari. "While mast bumping is not a new phenomenon, the frequency and catastrophic nature of mast bumps experienced by pilots flying Robinson helicopters is nothing short of alarming. Too many good pilots around the world are dying because these weak blades are thrown out of balance by the slightest of thermals or wind gusts that may be encountered during normal straight flight on a nice sunny day. Rather than beefing up its main rotor system so the blades can withstand normal flight conditions, Robinson repeatedly blames the pilots, even if they are highly experienced flight instructors with excellent safety records."

About David Cormey


David S. Cormey resided in Prescott Valley, Arizona with his loving wife, Charlyn, and their teen-age daughter. He was very devoted to his family and was a 100% involved father. The family of three called themselves "The Power of Three" because they were always together.

David served in the United States Army/National Guard for 20 years from 1985 through 2005, and was a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 4. At the time of his death at the age of 55, David possessed 5,220 flight hours and was Chief Pilot of the 141 Private Pilot, Instrument, Commercial, CFI, and CFII courses for Guidance Air Services.

About Timothy Brown


Timothy S. Brown, 52, was the Director of Commercial operations for Guidance Air Services. Tim was the loving father of two. Spending quality time with his children and always encouraging them to try new things, to go outside, have love for life and animals, and to be the best version of themselves they could be, was his passion.

About Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman

Over the last 40 years, the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has represented more than 650 victims in aviation accidents, including aviation-related product liability lawsuits against some of the world's largest helicopter manufacturers.

The firm has litigated against Aerospatiale, Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter Textron, Boeing, Eurocopter, Hughes Helicopters, L-3 Communications, McDonnell Douglas, MD Helicopters, Messerschmitt-Bolkow Blohm, Robinson Helicopter Co., and Sikorsky, among others. Our helicopter accident attorneys have represented victims from more than a dozen Robinson helicopter incidents and accidents.

Across all areas of practice, the attorneys at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman have recovered over $1.6 billion on behalf of their clients.

*Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Original article ➤ https://www.airplanecrash-lawyer.com

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Scottsdale, Arizona
Robinson Helicopter Company; Torrance, California
Rolls-Royce; Indianapolis, Indiana
Guidance Aviation; Prescott, Arizona

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf


Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms


Aviation Accident Data Summary - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf


http://registry.faa.gov/N117TW 

Location: Wikieup, AZ
Accident Number: WPR16FA130
Date & Time: 06/23/2016, 1425 MST
Registration: N117TW
Aircraft: ROBINSON HELICOPTER CO R66
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Mast bumping
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Positioning

Analysis


The commercial pilot and the pilot-rated passenger departed on a cross-country positioning flight. The helicopter was reported overdue when it did not arrive at the destination, and the wreckage was located the following morning. There were no witnesses to the accident, no recorded radar data, and no recorded radio transmissions from the pilot.

Examination of the wreckage revealed no evidence of any preexisting anomalies that would have precluded normal operation of the helicopter. There was evidence that a mast bumping event had occurred and that the main rotor blades had contacted the airframe, which resulted in an in-flight break-up. There was no recorded information available that could be used to determine the helicopter's airspeed, altitude, or the pilot's control inputs.

A weather study indicated that conditions were conducive to the development of significant updrafts or thermals of rising air and dust devils, and people near the accident site reported that there were numerous dust devils in the area.

It is likely that the helicopter encountered turbulence due to updrafts and/or dust devils, and the pilot lost control of the helicopter, which resulted in mast bumping.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

An encounter with turbulence due to updrafts and/or dust devils that resulted in mast bumping and an in-flight break-up.

Findings

Aircraft

Main rotor mast/swashplate - Related operating info (Cause)

Environmental issues
Convective turbulence - Effect on operation (Cause)
Terrain induced turbulence - Effect on operation (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight


Enroute-cruise
Turbulence encounter
Mast bumping (Defining event) 

On June 23, 2016, about 1425 mountain standard time, a Robinson Helicopter Company R66, N117TW, broke up in flight near Wikieup, Arizona. The commercial pilot and the pilot-rated passenger sustained fatal injuries; the helicopter was destroyed. Guidance Air Service LLC was operating the helicopter under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The cross-country positioning flight departed Prescott, Arizona, about 1338 with a planned destination of Riverside, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

According to the operator, the pilot, who was seated in the right seat, was going to Riverside to take a Part 135.293 check ride with an inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards District Office located there. The pilot-rated passenger, who was seated in the left seat, was the operator's Part 141 chief pilot.

The helicopter was reported overdue when it did not arrive at the destination, and the wreckage was located about 0430 on June 24. There were no witnesses to the accident, no recorded radar data, and no recorded radio transmissions from the pilot.

A SPOT device, which is a handheld GPS tracking device that uses a satellite network enabling text messaging and GPS tracking services, was present on the helicopter. Records provided by the operator listed 19 location fixes beginning at Prescott at 1338 and proceeding on a southwesterly heading. The last data point at 1425 was in the vicinity of the accident site.

Pilot Information


Certificate: Airline Transport; Flight Instructor
Age: 52, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Multi-engine Land; Single-engine Land; Single-engine Sea
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane; Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): Airplane Multi-engine; Airplane Single-engine; Helicopter; Instrument Airplane; Instrument Helicopter
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 07/09/2015
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 12/10/2015
Flight Time: 8000 hours (Total, all aircraft), 10 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 3 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft)

Pilot-Rated Passenger Information

Certificate: Flight Instructor; Commercial; Private
Age: 55, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter; Instrument Helicopter
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 05/02/2016
Occupational Pilot: Yes
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 02/22/2016
Flight Time: 5220 hours (Total, all aircraft), 101 hours (Total, this make and model), 3769 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 89 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 42 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: ROBINSON HELICOPTER CO
Registration: N117TW
Model/Series: R66
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 0042
Landing Gear Type: Skid
Seats: 5
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 02/16/2016, 100 Hour
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2700 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Turbo Shaft
Airframe Total Time: 662 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: Rolls Royce
ELT: Not installed
Engine Model/Series: 250-C300A1
Registered Owner: Zions Credit Group
Rated Power: 300 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Rotorcraft External Load (133); On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As: Guidance Air Services
Operator Designator Code: 2G7A 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KHII, 783 ft msl
Observation Time: 1435 MST
Distance from Accident Site: 43 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 270°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Temperature/Dew Point: 43°C / -3°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 17 knots/ 22 knots, 190°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.79 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Prescott, AZ (PRC)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Riverside, CA (RAL)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1338 MST
Type of Airspace: 

The southwest section of the National Weather Service surface analysis chart depicted a thermal low pressure system west of the accident site. The closest upper air sounding from Yuma, Arizona, about 90 miles south of the accident site, depicted thermal profiles that supported strong thermals through 8,500 ft. The lifted index (a common measure of atmospheric instability) and the K-index (a measure of thunderstorm potential) indicated conditions conducive to development of significant updrafts or thermals of rising air and dust devils. Other weather products supported strong thermals to 11,000 ft.

Two people near the accident site reported seeing numerous large dust devils. One person was an airframe and powerplant mechanic driving on a highway, and he saw as many as five dust devils simultaneously. The other person was the pilot of an R44 who was performing aerial survey work immediately north of the accident site. He stated that beginning at 1130 the winds became stronger and gustier. Over the next couple of hours, he observed numerous dust devils, and experienced a significant updraft in excess of 1,000 ft per minute. About 1515, he decided to discontinue operations and encountered a significant wind shift while returning to his base.

A dust devil is a strong, well-formed whirlwind that can range from a few feet to hundreds of feet wide, and can reach heights of several hundred feet. In the United States, dust devils have been reported in every state with Arizona reporting the highest frequencies of occurrence, and they are most frequent between June and August. They have been implicated as a cause or contributing factor in about 50 aircraft accidents between 2000 and 2015 according to the NTSB database. 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 34.461111, -113.683333

The helicopter came to rest in hilly desert terrain. The debris field was about 750 yards long and 150 yards wide. One of the first pieces identified was the outboard 5 ft of a main rotor blade afterbody that had separated from the leading edge spar and displayed black paint transfer marks near the tip. It was located on the top of a small ridgeline. The inboard section of this main rotor blade was about 600 yards into the debris field and 85 yards left of the debris path centerline.

The left side of the helicopter was more fragmented than the right; left side cabin pieces and instruments were distributed throughout the early part of the debris field. The tail boom was about midway into the debris field. The left side/nose cabin, which was located near the tail boom had a straight separation line or slice across one side, and some floor panels at the aft end of the slice were crushed in an accordion pattern. The cabin came to rest inverted about 600 yards into the debris field, and was destroyed by a postcrash fire. The engine remained attached to the cabin.

The transmission, mast, and second main rotor blade separated as a unit, and were about 100 yards past the cabin area in the direction of the centerline of the debris field. The coning bolt of the separated blade was bent, and the teeter stops for both blades had impact marks across their centers. The attached blade was bent midspan about 10° to 20° opposite the direction of rotation. The main rotor driveshaft was bent about 15° at the swashplate. 

Medical And Pathological Information 

Pilot

The Mohave County Medical Examiner's Office completed an external exam autopsy of the pilot. The cause of death was determined to be multiple injuries due to a helicopter crash.

Toxicology testing of the specimens from the pilot by the FAA's Bioaeronautical Science's Research Laboratory, Oklahoma, City, Oklahoma, were negative for ethanol and tested drugs in the muscle.

Pilot-Rated Passenger

The Mohave County Medical Examiner's Office completed an autopsy of the pilot-rated passenger. The cause of death was determined to be multiple injuries due to a helicopter crash.

Toxicology testing of the specimens from the pilot-rated passenger by the FAA's Bioaeronautical Science's Research Laboratory were negative for tested drugs in the liver.

The testing detected 80 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol in muscle, and Propanol (N-) was detected in muscle; no ethanol was detected in the brain. The report noted that putrefaction of the specimens had occurred. 

Additional Information

Robinson Safety Notice SN-32 discusses flight in high winds and turbulence and explains how improper application of control inputs in response to turbulence can increase the likelihood of a mast bumping accident. It recommends that pilots reduce airspeed below normal cruise speed to 60 to 70 knots for flight in significant turbulence. It suggests techniques to avoid overcontrol of the helicopter, and says to avoid flying on the downwind side of hills and ridges.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Robinson sued will never change their stupid design... No matter what the settlement is.

Anonymous said...

All helicopters are subject to mast bumping. Just like an airplane helicopters have a VNO. They were probably hauling as across the desert had hit a thermal which induced a negative G resulting in loss of control/mast bump. The circumstances under which the mast bump couldn't be determined, I hope Robinson drives this point home in their defense. Lawsuits like this one are why the cost of flying has became so inflated. The attorneys are getting rich though.
"It is likely that the helicopter encountered turbulence due to updrafts and/or dust devils, and the pilot lost control of the helicopter, which resulted in mast bumping."

Anonymous said...

Agreed on the litigation. It does not matter who the plaintiff accuses, ruins, names and charges in their lawsuit as their "hired" law firms go after the deep pockets