Is the Design of the Robinson R66 Defective?

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Los Angeles, California, July 29, 2013 -- The fifth crash of a Robinson R66 helicopter occurred this past Saturday, July 27, 2013. An R66, registration number N646AG, carrying five people, including a child, crashed in a heavily wooded area near Noxen, Pennsylvania, 21 miles west of Scranton. Media reports state the pilot said he was losing altitude as he followed the path of Mehoopany Creek.

Though the cause of the Pennsylvania crash is not yet known, all crash theories, including mechanical, must be examined in great detail.

Lawyers handling the first R66 crash believe they have identified defects in the R66. The lawyers allege in a recently filed lawsuit, the first R66 crash lawsuit ever filed, that the fuel system in that R66 aircraft, registration number N810AG, was defective. The lawyers further allege that the defects caused the mechanical failure and the cycles of uncontrollable power surges and losses which ultimately led to the first R66 crash on July 12, 2011 near Flandes, Colombia, which killed the pilot and passenger. Robinson Helicopter Attorney A. Ilyas Akbari

"Whether this alleged defect is systemic, a design related manufacturing error or something else, we don't yet know, but we have grave concerns at the number of crashes so early in the aircraft's history," stated Ronald L. M. Goldman, concerning the R66.

The aviation accident lawyers of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman have conducted intensive, scientific examination of the R66 model aircraft. The firm's team of aviation lawyers, which has handled six additional crashes involving R22 and R44 aircraft, had the Colombian R66 wreckage shipped to the United States.

Baum Hedlund went above and beyond the "official" Colombian R66 investigation in order to uncover the truth. The firm, along with their team of experts, conducted five different inspections on the R66 aircraft at several locations across the U.S . Once in the United States, an initial inspection of entire wreckage took place at McSwain Engineering in Pensacola, Florida. Rolls-Royce inspected the engine at its headquarters in Indianapolis, where the engine data was downloaded from the helicopter's Electronic Control Module. Baum Hedlund attorneys had requested to be present at this inspection as representatives of the victims, but were denied access. As a result further detailed inspections were conducted at Aeroscope, Inc. in Broomfield, Colorado, of the helicopter's fuel system component parts, including the fuel control, power turbine governor and fuel pump. Representatives from Honeywell (the manufacturer of the R66's turbine powered fuel system component parts) and Rolls-Royce (the R66 engine manufacturer) participated in the inspection along with the experts retained by the victims' families. Another, more detailed scientific and microscopic inspection of the fuel system component parts occurred at McSwain Engineering, where the entire wreckage is being stored.

The first R66 lawsuit alleges that shortly after takeoff the R66 experienced a mechanical malfunction and uncontrollable loss of power during normal operations as a result of defects in the helicopter's engine, fuel system component parts, and other parts of the aircraft. "Even the most experienced pilot merely becomes a passenger when that sort of malfunction occurs. Unfortunately he's just along for the ride at that point," says aviation attorney Ilyas Akbari.

The surviving families are suing Robinson Helicopter Company, Rolls-Royce Corporation, Rolls-Royce North America, Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC, Honeywell International, and Honeywell Aerospace.

Including Saturday's crash, there have been a total of five Robinson R66 helicopter crashes since the aircraft went into production in late 2010:

  • July 12, 2011, Flandes, Colombia, pilot and passenger killed
  • October 1, 2011, near Philip, South Dakota, pilot killed
  • January 3, 2013, Caraguatatuba, Sao Paolo, Brazil, pilot and passenger killed
  • March 9, 2013, Oamaru Valley, near Taupo, New Zealand, pilot killed
  • July 27, 2013, near Noxen, Pennsylvania, pilot and four passengers killed

Nearly 400 R66 helicopters have so far been manufactured. According to Robinson's Winter 2013 newsletter, 70 percent of its helicopters are sold to foreign customers.

About Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman

Baum, Hedlund has represented nearly 600 victims in aviation crashes over the past 40 years, including dozens of product liability claims against major helicopter manufacturers such as Aerospatiale, Bell Helicopter Textron, Hughes Helicopters, McDonnell Douglas, Messerschmitt‑Bolkow Blohm, Robinson Helicopter Company and Sikorsky.

The Colombian R66 case represents the sixth Robinson helicopter crash the firm has handled. Most recently, Baum Hedlund secured a settlement in a case against Robinson stemming from a crash that killed Mr. Si Young Lee, a South Korean businessman, when an R44 crashed near Easton, Washington after experiencing mechanical failure. That trial was to begin in March 2012 but settled on the eve of trial. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

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