Robinson R66 Helicopter Fleet Suffers Second Fatal Crash

Philip, South Dakota is the site of the second fatal Robinson R66 crash. This time, only the pilot was on board the helicopter.  The first fatal R66 crash, which happened in July, killed two. 

How does the R66 safety record stack up so far? Robinson R66

Since there are only 41 R66's on the US registry, the record stacks up poorly.  

Before the Robinson R66 came along, there were about 1.2 fatal turbine helicopter accidents for every 100,000 hours flown. For the R66 crashes to be in line with that norm, each of the 41 R66's in the fleet would need to have logged 4000 hours.  Since Robinson didn't start delivering the R66 until November 2010, that's virtually impossible.  More realistically, the average time on an R66 is less than 400 hours.  

Though not a scientific analysis, as of now it looks as though Robinson's R66 is about 10 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than other turbine helicopters.

Sure, this is a small sample.  Perhaps it's too soon to draw any conclusions.  But should R66 owners and pilots be concerned?

Of course they should.

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Comments (11) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
CommercialP - November 15, 2011 8:25 PM

So you are just going to write an article bashing R66s without even noting the cause? Credibility, gone.

Mike Danko - November 15, 2011 8:40 PM

Commercial P-

Don't yet know the cause of either accident. I do know that, at the moment, the R66 safety record is, statistically speaking, very poor.

Not sure how "credibility" plays into it. We don't have to wait for causes to be determined to note the mathematical facts. The R66 is currently ten times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than the competition.

Is there disagreement on the math?

LongLiner - November 16, 2011 6:24 PM

First off; having paid attention in Statistics class we all know you're statement is biased and premature at best.

You can't compare the R66 accidents to operators/manufacturers. What you need to compare are the pilots that are flying the machines. Traditionally low time vs high time and you'll find accident rates fit right in with the industry average.

You will always see a higher accident rate with Robinson's aircraft due to the nature of the flying they do and given the time pilots have on the machines.

will be interesting to see what actually happened before we jump to conclusions here boys.

Mike Danko - November 16, 2011 7:42 PM

LongLiner -

Hmmm. Your first point misses the mark, I think. The numbers are the numbers. They are neither premature nor biased. Sure, it may be premature to draw conclusions from the numbers by saying, for example that the R66 must be dangerous. But I haven't said that. I've said only that it is far more likely, statistically speaking, for an R66 to be involved in a fatal accident. That statement is simply a fact.

There may be something more to your other point, however. I've heard it argued that the R66 attracts pilots who are less experienced because, for example, it is less expensive than other turbine helicopters and thus more "accessible." If so, that might explain the R66's higher accident rate than other turbines.

But there are a couple of problems with that theory. First, while a new R66 is less expensive than any other new turbine, it is probably more expensive than the average used turbine. Since there is no real used R66 market, R66s would seem to be on average more expensive and thus *less* accessible, not more.

Second, neither of the R66 accidents seem to involve operations that were, from a piloting perspective, particularly challenging. The South Dakota crash, for example, appears to have occurred in cruise. Hardly an operation where you'd expect low piloting time to come into play.

But, as you say, at this point it's too early to say.

Thanks for the comment.

Stephen Watts - March 31, 2012 11:00 PM

Interestingly you both have a point. I have owned both R22 and R44 aircraft flown in the UK. Many happy hours of private flying. Interestingly both those aircraft after I sold them crashed.... So low hour pilots are a statistic that has to be taken in to account.

However the R66 I was to believe would be a more professional work horse like a jet ranger so statistically it needs to stack up. I'm not flying a 66 until the bugs are ironed out or I might end up nose first in route 66!.

Lloyd Merriam - July 19, 2012 1:10 PM

Gentlemen and Ladies, I urge you to have a look at the accident record of the R22 in the early days. The very reasonable cost of the R22 attracted low time pilots and there were problems which might be expected. More experienced pilots however were also having trouble with the Robinson product because their flying style did not agree with the low inertia rotor system. It was a case of needing to learn the do's and don'ts of a low inertia system.
Eventually thru the educational efforts of Frank Robinson the accident statistics came down and the R22 and R44 went on to become one of the most successful helicopters in history. Lets not be too quick to judge the product until the jury is in.

Bradley F - September 17, 2012 9:35 AM

You can be the most experienced Heli pilot in the world. But the playing field is exactly even between a pilot with 50,000 flight hours and one with 100 flight hours when the main rotors snap off inflight.

Or, is there an accepted manoeuvre I'm not aware of? You push right peddle and turn on the radio to recover from it?

Cobra Driver - December 8, 2012 5:55 PM

I do think that two crashes of the newer R66 is something that should be examined with a detailed focus. I do not yet think that 2 crashes out of forty plus delivered aircraft is yet a defined statistic. We need more data to make any sort of reliable conclusions.

Is there aircraft operating limits that are getting exceeded by pilots new to the aircraft? Is there defects in the manufactured components? Is the exact maintenance criteria getting followed by AMT's that are fairly new to the R66? Who knows for sure yet...we all need more facts before we can make any valid assesments.

I would like to buy an R66 but I am also realistic - I will not buy this newer design until there is more data and information on the reasons for the accidents.

LowTimeRotorhead - December 9, 2012 1:27 AM

But the playing field is exactly even between a pilot with 50,000 flight hours and one with 100 flight hours when the main rotors snap off inflight.

A 50,000hr pilot would hopefully know a little about mast bumping and wouldn't have snapped the main rotor off in the first place.

Also, what rich doctor wants a 1974 B206? Why spend $375k for a timed out H500 when you can get a brand new R66 for just $850k? Remember what happened with the Beech Bonanza, Cirrus, or the R22 (as previously mentioned)? I've heard that Cirrus didn't offer retracts because they would make the aircraft uninsurable for their target market (low time rich folks).

Low time pilot + too much money = higher accident rates. Who knows if this contributed to either accident? Statistically it will become a factor, though.

I just hope they don't add the 66 to the SFAR...

As for the underlying tone of the article, sensationalism sells magazines. Or electrons in this case...

Daniel Juliani Blanco - December 2, 2013 11:43 AM

Veja aí !!!

Ray Nixon - June 17, 2016 12:58 PM

Using this logic, if a helicopter manufacturer built a prototype and, during testing, it crashed, according to this statistical "methodology," the next pilot to fly one would have a 100% chance of crashing.

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