The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) concerning the main rotor blades on multiple models of helicopters manufactured by Robinson Helicopter Company. At issue is debonding and corrosion on the main rotor blades of Robinson R22, R22 Alpha, R22 Mariner, R44 and R44 II models, which has led to a number of catastrophic crashes.
The AD requires the main rotor blades to be inspected for debonding, corrosion, a separation, a gap, or a dent, and to replace any damaged blade with an airworthy blade that does not require the AD inspection within five years.
Below are the new blades to be installed in the event of bonding or corrosion:
- R22 model: Replace blade P/N A016-2 or A016-4 with blade P/N A016-6
- R44 model with hydraulically boosted main rotor flight controls: Replace blade P/N C016-2 or C016-5 with blade P/N C016-7
- R44 model without hydraulically boosted main rotor flight controls: Replace blade P/N C016-2 or C016-5 with blade P/N C016-7
Safety advocates have long felt the need for the FAA to act on this issue. Main rotor blade debunking has been an issue for decades, leading to many fatal accidents. "Although very late to the game, it's nice to see the FAA finally recognize this as an "unsafe condition," says aviation attorney Ilyas Akbari. "Unfortunately, the FAA should mandate a design change for these main rotor blades. In this day and age, main rotor blades should not be glued together like a gingerbread house."