Robinson Helicopter Company likes to say that its helicopters are safe in crashes. According to an excerpt from Robinson Safety Notice SN-10:
The R22 and R44 have demonstrated excellent crashworthiness as long as the pilot flies the aircraft all the way to the ground . . .The ship may roll over and be severely damaged, but the occupants have an excellent chance of walking away from it without injury.
As it turns out, that’s not quite true. When they roll over, Robinson helicopters, in particular R44’s, have a tendency to catch fire and explode. That makes walking away from a crash pretty much impossible.
Robinson fixed the problem beginning with helicopters it manufactured in 2010 by installing better fuel tanks. But that didn’t help Mike deGruy and Andrew Wight, who were aboard VH-COK, a 2004 model that crashed February 4 in Australia.
A photograph of the aircraft (above) shows that the ship rolled over on its side, just as Robinson says. There’s little crush damage to the cockpit and so the crash looks survivable. Except for the devastating post-crash fire.
The photo of the deGruy wreckage looks remarkably similar to the wreckage of the September 2010 R44 crash in Mammoth, California (left). That helicopter rolled over and burned as well.
There’s no reason for anyone to be burned in an otherwise survivable helicopter accident. Looks as though deGruy and Wright may be added to the list of those who died needlessly due to the dangerous and defective Robinson fuel system.