Three Overseas Tourists in Helicopter Crash on Mount Tarawera. Another Robinson R44 Downed

Volcanic Air Safaris

Towed. The damaged helicopter is flown back to Rotorua by another helicopter. Photo: Stephen Parker

Authorities have been keen to downplay yet another helicopter crash involving overseas tourists, following the death of six tourists at Fox Glacier just 10 days ago.  Helicopters are now said to make “heavy landings” when they crash in New Zealand.

Three overseas tourists and their pilot had to be rescued from the summit of Mount Tarawera after their helicopter’s tail rotor hit a rock when the craft was near the ground, destroying the tail rotor. The Robinson R44 helicopter belonged to Rotorua based Volcanic Air Safaris.

The pilot made a mayday call shortly after 2 pm yesterday and instigated a full-on alert for local emergency services. The passengers were safely retrieved from the craft which was later airlifted off the mountain.

In February this year the Civil Aviation Authority grounded more than half of New Zealand’s Robinson R44 helicopters after a fatal crash in Queenstown in which two people died. A possible defect had been found that could see the aircraft’s main C0167 rotor blade rotor blade rip apart mid-flight.

The crash happened about a month after a safety warning was sent out urging pilots to check for cracks. Approximately 80 Robinson R44s in New Zealand were grounded after the crash.

CAA Tardy to Issue Bans, Takes a Fatality for Things to Happen

23 February 2015.  The helicopter model involved in a double fatality in Queenstown was the subject of a national warning issued a month before, after a rotor blade cracked during a flight.

Pilots across New Zealand have raised concerns the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) did not ban the Robinson R44 choppers sooner.

The authority grounded all Robinson R44 series helicopters fitted with main rotor blades P/N CO16-7 – known as dash 7 blades – on Saturday after the death of two Over the Top Helicopters staff members last week.

It was followed by an urgent directive from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which banned 500 affected helicopters from flying while the crash investigation takes place

The CAA recommended all main rotor blades on the choppers be inspected before each flight for “defects which may initiate a crack and result in a catastrophic failure“.

A Christchurch helicopter pilot believes the warning was not enough.  The pilot, who wished to remain anonymous, said the CAA was “notoriously slow at acting on these sorts of things”.

“At the end of the day, the CAA were well and truly aware of this serious problem and could have saved an 18-year-old and a well-respected pilot’s life,” he said.

“[It’s a] shame they had to wait for fatalities before taking further action.” source




One thought on “Three Overseas Tourists in Helicopter Crash on Mount Tarawera. Another Robinson R44 Downed

  1. I used to fly down south as a recreational pilot (fixed wing) and have been to some really treacherous airspaces, but the most funny part is how the CAA allows single engine piston engine helicopters to operate in such treacherous terrain, it’s playing chicken with the lives of tourists. Not to mention the lack of radio coverage and extremely bad weather, which can get even the most experienced pilots once in a while.

    So it’s just a matter of time when something like this happens. The bar needs to be raised.

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