Aarey chopper crash: Model notorious for faulty rotors, prone to post-crash fires

Updated: Dec 13, 2016, 08:52 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

The particular model of the helicopter that crashed in Aarey Colony on Sunday — Robinson R44 — was considered to have serious safety issues by western aviation watchdogs 

The particular model of the helicopter that crashed in Aarey Colony on Sunday — Robinson R44 — was considered to have serious safety issues by western aviation watchdogs like the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

While the FAA had in February 2015 issued a directive warning that the rotors were prone to fractures, the ATSB had in April 2013 said in a study that the R44 was highly susceptible to fires if it crashes.

Also Read: Aarey chopper crash: Model notorious for faulty rotors, prone to post-crash fires

Investigators from Delhi at the crash site. Pic/Poonam Bathija
Investigators from Delhi at the crash site. Pic/Poonam Bathija

"R44 accidents result in a significantly higher proportion of post-impact fires than for other similar helicopter types," the ATSB report which looked into at least three separate crashes, said.

The victims of the crash suffered severe burn injuries and are battling for their lives. Sources added a two-member Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) team, which has started its probe into the crash, will have to depend on recordings between the Juhu ATC and the pilot as the chopper did not have a black box.

A local pulls out Ritesh Modi from the crashed chopper in Aarey colony
A local pulls out Ritesh Modi from the crashed chopper in Aarey colony

"The team will have to check all the minute details to determine if the accident happened due to technical slag or maintenance issue," a senior Directorate-General of Civil Aviation told mid-day.

Read Story: Aarey chopper crash: From joyride to tragedy in 5 minutes

Officials from the Directorate of Air Safety (Western Region) said that the positioning of the helicopter at the time of the crash seemed to indicate that it was trying to head towards Juhu. The crash happened within five minutes of take off. Recordings of conversation between the ATC and the pilot will help ascertain if he was trying to return to the aerodrome due to a snag.

"We expect to submit our preliminary findings to the civil aviation ministry within a week," said the official. "We will then do a detailed analytical probe, so as to avoid similar incidents in future."

Auctioned by Pawan Hans
Aman Aviation and Aerospace Solutions (Pvt) Limited acquired two R44 helicopters from Pawan Hans a few years ago. Its proprietor was an ex-Pawan Hans employee.

"The R 44 helicopter was in the Northern Region of Pawan Hans and it was sold as it was not economically sustainable to run and maintain the same, as it was too old," said a senior Pawan Hans official who did not wish to be named.

"Robinson R 44-helicopters is a piston engine helicopter and it usually has a speed restriction of up to 120 kmph and is used world over for families for site seeing, as the speed is very slow," said another Pawn Hans pilot. "Robinson Helicopter Company is based in California. The FAA had time and again issued directives in their safety bulletins highlighting airworthiness issues pertaining to such piston-engine helicopters."

400
No. of bookings since Feb 2016

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