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New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority Urged to Take Action on Robinson R22 Helicopters

An investigation into a fatal 2011 helicopter crash has prompted New Zealand's Transport Accident Investigation Commission to urge the country's Civil Aviation Authority to step in and do something to prevent light helicopter crashes.

On April 27, 2011, 21-year-old Marcus Hoogvliet and his 32-year-old flight instructor Graham Scott were killed when the Robinson R22 helicopter they were in crashed near Mt. Aspiring during a training flight. A subsequent investigation found that the helicopter broke up mid-flight, likely due to turbulence, the main rotor speed dropping too much, or the pilots making abrupt movements. According to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, Robinson R22 helicopters can fail at high altitudes in certain circumstances.

According to chief inspector Tim Burfoot, a Robinson R22 helicopter "break-up" during flight has occurred every 18 months since 2002. "We've done several inquiries before that have involved Robinson helicopter in-flight break-ups, and it was just when we sort of noticed that trend, and then this one happened, we said we'd better take a deeper look and see what sort of pattern is happening here."

Burfoot and the commission are calling for more safety training for R22 pilots who may not know about the helicopter's limitations in turbulent conditions and at high altitudes. According to Radio New Zealand, there are roughly 350 Robinson R22's currently in use in the country.

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