Lawsuit Against Robinson Claims Defects Caused Fatal R66 Crash

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June 25, 2018 - Los Angeles, California - - The families of two highly experienced pilots who died in a 2016 helicopter crash near Wikieup, Arizona filed a lawsuit against Robinson Helicopter Company, alleging, among other things, defective rotor blades on the company's R66 helicopter contributed to the cause of the fatal crash.

The helicopter crash lawsuit (case no. BC711330) was filed Friday in Superior Court for the State of California, County of Los Angeles.

The plaintiffs are Charlyn Marie Cormey, surviving spouse of deceased helicopter pilot David Scott Cormey, and their minor child; and Wendi Brown on behalf of her minor children and heirs to deceased helicopter pilot Timothy Shawn Brown.

The Cormey and Brown families are represented in this case by A. Ilyas Akbari and Ronald L.M. Goldman of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman.

The defendant is Torrance, California-based Robinson Helicopter Company. The lawsuit against Robinson seeks wrongful death damages based on the following causes of action:

  • Strict Product Liability
  • Breach of Warranties
  • Negligence

2016 Robinson Helicopter Crash in Arizona Kills Two Highly Experienced Pilots

On June 23, 2016, pilots David Cormey and Timothy Brown were flying a cross-country positioning flight in a Robinson R66 helicopter (FAA registration no. N117TW) from Prescott, Arizona to Riverside, California as part of their employment with Guidance Air Service, a leading FAA approved helicopter flight school, charter service facility and full-service maintenance repair and overhaul facility located in Prescott, Arizona.

The purpose of the trip was for Timothy Brown to take a routine Part 135.293 check ride with an inspector from the FAA Flight Standards District Office in Riverside, California.

David Cormey, a very experienced, pilot, was seated in the left seat. He had accumulated approximately 5,220 flight hours and was the Chief Instructor Pilot at Guidance Air Service.

Timothy Brown, a certified commercial pilot, was seated in the right seat. He was a helicopter flight instructor with approximately 8,000 flight hours. Mr. Brown was the Director of Commercial Operations at Guidance Air Service.

Approximately one hour after departing from Prescott, during straight and level cruise flight, the helicopter apparently experienced a mast bumping event where the main rotor blades contacted the airframe, resulting in a sudden and immediate catastrophic in-flight breakup in the middle of the desert. David Cormey and Timothy Brown were killed in the crash.

Allegations in Lawsuit Against Robinson Helicopter Co.

According to the lawsuit, a SPOT device (a handheld GPS tracking device that uses a satellite network enabling text messaging and GPS tracking services) was present on the helicopter. The tracking plot below, taken from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) docket, shows the R66 in straight and level flight heading directly toward Riverside, California:

SPOT map for R66

The NTSB investigation report concluded that the helicopter experienced a mast bumping event causing a catastrophic in-flight breakup of the helicopter.

R66 debris field

The debris field (pictured above) was consistent with an in-flight breakup, measuring approximately 750 yards long and 150 yards wide, with parts of the helicopter scattered throughout.

The lawsuit alleges that Robinson helicopters, including the R66 model, are especially susceptible to catastrophic mast bumping events due to, among other things, the design of the rotor head and main rotor blade system.

The plaintiffs claim that the frequency and severity of mast bumps in a Robinson helicopter are much higher than its competitors.

"The time to overhaul the design of the main rotor system in the Robinson family of helicopters is long overdue," says helicopter crash attorney Ilyas Akbari. "While mast bumping is not a new phenomenon, the frequency and catastrophic nature of mast bumps experienced by pilots flying Robinson helicopters is nothing short of alarming. Too many good pilots around the world are dying because these weak blades are thrown out of balance by the slightest of thermals or wind gusts that may be encountered during normal straight flight on a nice sunny day. Rather than beefing up its main rotor system so the blades can withstand normal flight conditions, Robinson repeatedly blames the pilots, even if they are highly experienced flight instructors with excellent safety records."

About David Cormey

David CormeyDavid S. Cormey resided in Prescott Valley, Arizona with his loving wife, Charlyn, and their teen-age daughter. He was very devoted to his family and was a 100% involved father. The family of three called themselves "The Power of Three" because they were always together.

David served in the United States Army/National Guard for 20 years from 1985 through 2005, and was a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 4. At the time of his death at the age of 55, David possessed 5,220 flight hours and was Chief Pilot of the 141 Private Pilot, Instrument, Commercial, CFI, and CFII courses for Guidance Air Services.

About Timothy Brown

Timothy BrownTimothy S. Brown, 52, was the Director of Commercial operations for Guidance Air Services. Tim was the loving father of two. Spending quality time with his children and always encouraging them to try new things, to go outside, have love for life and animals, and to be the best version of themselves they could be, was his passion.

About Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman

Over the last 40 years, the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has represented more than 650 victims in aviation accidents, including aviation-related product liability lawsuits against some of the world's largest helicopter manufacturers.

The firm has litigated against Aerospatiale, Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter Textron, Boeing, Eurocopter, Hughes Helicopters, L-3 Communications, McDonnell Douglas, MD Helicopters, Messerschmitt-Bolkow Blohm, Robinson Helicopter Co., and Sikorsky, among others. Our helicopter accident attorneys have represented victims from more than a dozen Robinson helicopter incidents and accidents.

Across all areas of practice, the attorneys at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman have recovered over $1.6 billion on behalf of their clients.

*Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.