POST Online Media Lite Edition


ATSB: R44 pilot who experiences unusual vibrations through tail rotor to land as soon as possible

Christian Fernsby |
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s investigation into the in-flight breakup of a Robinson R44 helicopter at Broome, Western Australia on 4 July 2020 is continuing.

Article continues below

Topics: ATSB   

A preliminary report from the on-going investigation details that the helicopter, with a pilot and three passengers on board, had departed a yard in the Broome industrial suburb of Bilingurr for a private local scenic flight.

As the helicopter reached a height of about 55 feet, witnesses heard a bang, which one described as sounding similar to a metal bar striking a metal pole. Footage from a nearby CCTV camera showed that the R44’s aft tail cone bulkhead, empennage, tail rotor gearbox and tail rotor assembly all separated from the helicopter in about one second.

The helicopter climbed to around 75 feet while rotating rapidly to the right, before rolling and impacting the ground on its right side, about 30 metres from the departure point.

The pilot, who owned the helicopter, and a passenger, both seated on the right side of the helicopter, were fatally injured, while the front left seat and rear left seat passengers were seriously injured. The helicopter was destroyed.

“ATSB preliminary reports detail factual information established in the investigation’s early evidence collection phase, and contain no analysis or findings, which will be detailed in the investigation’s final report,” ATSB Director Transport Safety Dr Mike Walker noted.

The preliminary report details that on 29 June the R44 was ferried from Bilingurr to Broome Airport, where it was fitted with a tracking system.

“That pilot reported feeling a vibration in the tail rotor pedals that felt like someone tapping the pilot’s feet with spoons. The sensation was noticeable yet not strong enough to cause significant alarm.”

Three days later the helicopter’s owner, accompanied by a passenger, returned the helicopter to Bilingurr, where on landing the owner also reported feeling vibrations in the pedals, and requested maintenance engineers inspect the helicopter.

Subsequently on 3 July, a maintenance engineer visually inspected the R44’s flex plate, empennage, gearbox, pitch links and tail rotor assembly, and found no defects.

In addition, the maintenance engineer and an apprentice used electronic dynamic balancing equipment to measure the dynamic balance of the tail rotor, which was found to be within limits.

A maintenance pilot started the helicopter, and while ground running the R44 could not feel any vibration through the pedals. In addition, the maintenance engineer leant into the cabin and placed their hands on the pedals, and also could not feel any vibration.

Due to the confined nature of the yard, and concerns over securing the site, the maintenance pilot elected not to test fly the helicopter, and so the tail rotor system was not assessed under load.

The maintenance pilot stated separately advising the pilot who originally detected the vibration and the owner that the engineers had not detected a vibration, and that the tail rotor was in balance.

The maintenance pilot also stated that the owner was told that no changes were made to the balance weights, that the helicopter had not been flown, and that an instruction from the engineer to conduct a check flight was relayed.

The accident flight was conducted the following day, with the helicopter owner as the pilot.

“It is not clear whether the pilot experienced any vibrations through the pedals at the time of the accident flight,” Dr Walker said.

“Nevertheless, the ATSB urges any R44 pilot who experiences unusual vibrations through the tail rotor pedals to land as soon as possible and follow the advice in the pilot’s operating handbook.”

The R44 pilot’s operating handbook advises that a “change in the sound or vibration of the helicopter may indicate an impending failure of a critical component. If unusual sound or vibration begins in flight, make a safe landing and have the aircraft thoroughly inspected before flight is resumed”.

A number of major components from the R44 were recovered to the ATSB’s technical facilities in Canberra for further analysis, including the tail rotor assembly, gearbox, vertical fin and rear section of the tail cone.

“No definitive results from our examinations are available at this stage, and a non-destructive 3D X-ray of the tail rotor gearbox prior to its disassembly did not find evidence of internal damage,” Dr Walker said.

“The ATSB will continue to extensively examine and analyse the recovered components as it seeks to determine the contributing factors behind the in-flight break-up.”

As the investigation continues, the ATSB will examine a range of aspects.

“These include the on-going, detailed technical examination of the helicopter’s tail and tail rotor assembly; continued review of the accident helicopter’s construction, assembly, flight and maintenance history; and further analysis of the CCTV footage,” Dr Walker said.

The ATSB will also review policies and procedures for maintenance check flights, and examine related occurrences involving the R44.

“While the investigation is continuing, should a critical safety issue be identified at any time, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken.”

What to read next

Investigation: ATSB investigating Airbus A330 hydraulic system malfunction
Australia investigating two incidents with Saab 340 planes
Australian final report on MH370 search admits failure

U.S. to double gas exports to UK under new partnership

The UK and U.S. will work together to increase energy security and drive down prices, as part of a new energy partnership.


Hong Kong suspends import of poultry meat and products from areas in South Africa, U.S. and Japan
THOR Industries Q1 2023 net sales $3.11 billion
Out of ten sectors of Slovak economy, eight rose
Don't know where to go in Paris? To see Moulin Rouge VIP show evening, of course


3,000 security officers searched in 11 German states, far-right figures arrested for planning attacks

Argentine VP Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner sentenced to 6 years in jail for corruption
New Zealand: TAIC issues report on fire on board cargo ship Kota Bahagia
NTSB urges immediate inspections of Bell 407 helicopters
U.S.: Locally heavy rain and snow
Croatian MiG-21 crashed, both pilots survived


Three ships to bring Ukrainian foods to India, Turkey, Spain

Depot of the future delivers Australia’s largest electric vehicle logistics fleet
Luxury travel market to grow by $703.14 billion
IATA: Airlines to return to profit next year but cargo under pressure
UAW urgently calls on automakers to move supply chain out of China's Uyghur Region
UK's fifth biggest trade union calls for an end to rip-off youth rates

Trending Now

EU antitrust watchdog slaps Deutsche Bank, Rabobank with bond cartel probe

Depot of the future delivers Australia’s largest electric vehicle logistics fleet

Bombardier breaks ground on Abu Dhabi service centre, will add more than 100 aerospace jobs

Taiwan Semiconductor to create 10,000 high-paying high-tech jobs in its new chip foundry in Arizona


ADF mobilized $8.9 billion for Africa’s low-income countries, highest in its 50-year history

Tajikistan plans to develop green economy in 4 years for $2 billion
European Union committed to mobilize 2.6 billion euros for Armenia
Thousand of Moldova's households to get higher compensations when paying bills
FM: Hungary received exemption from using oil price cap
Commission approves €26.3 million Finnish measure to support SEVO in construction of hydroelectric pump storage

Today We Recommend

UAW urgently calls on automakers to move supply chain out of China's Uyghur Region


Bombardier breaks ground on Abu Dhabi service centre, will add more than 100 aerospace jobs

Taiwan Semiconductor to create 10,000 high-paying high-tech jobs in its new chip foundry in Arizona

AbbVie signs $40 million collaboration deal with HotSpot Therapeutics


Bombardier breaks ground on Abu Dhabi service centre, will add more than 100 aerospace jobs

Taiwan Semiconductor to create 10,000 high-paying high-tech jobs in its new chip foundry in Arizona
DAMAC Group signs contract with Mandarin Oriental to manage luxurious resort in Maldives
Kostal to build its new plant in Mexico
Rosatom to supply uranium products to Brazil
Etihad Cargo restarts China-India freighter flights to meet industrial demand


Invivyd appoints two executives

Martinrea International appoints Maureen Midgley to board
SouthGobi Resources appoints three directors
Canon Europe promotes Hiro Imamura to EVP, digital printing & solutions
BioMar appoints Andrew Campbell as CEO for AQ1
Roche appoints Brad Moore as CEO of Roche Diagnostics North America


Canada trade surplus widens to $1.9 billion in October

Canada's international merchandise exports rose 1.5% in October
Brazil's Central Bank adjusts 2022 inflation projections by 0.01%
Australian GDP up 0.6 pct in Q3
Egypt’s net foreign reserves rise to $33.532 billion
Italy: Harmonized inflation inches down in November


Barnes & Noble Education Q2 2023 GAAP sales decreased 1.6%

AutoZone Q1 net income decreased to $539.32 million
Genesco Q3 2023 GAAP earnings $1.66
Kirkland's Q3 sales $131.0 million
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Q1 2023 revenue $839.5 million
Malvern Bancorp Q4 net income $2.6 million


Micromanaging is the worst enemy of efficiency and teamwork

Niger set to monetize massive gas reserves through Saharan natural gas pipeline
Putting the brakes on EV folly that choked the market
Oil discovery in Kavango Basin may mean huge benefits for Namibians
Cape Town and Dubai battle over Africa's energy future
Is America going to lose its superpower status?


Russia receives right to export animal feed to Myanmar

Rospotrebnadzor: Swine flu reported in 74 Russian regions
Hong Kong Customs detects suspected frozen meat smuggling case involving cargo vessel
First direct train from Laos to China arrives with 543 tons of fruit
Vets cull 15,000 ducks in Czech Republic over bird flu outbreak
Hong Kong suspends poultry meat and products import from areas in Canada


Only 32% of employees believe their pay is fair

Corporate duty waivers limit organic company growth and innovation
Women buy from women, men buy from women and men
How employee opinion impacts CEO dismissal
Keeping it in family can be good news when it comes to CEOs
Over a third of office workers are hybrid 'misfits'


Walmart to pay Massachusetts $500,000 as part of alleged drug pricing violations

AT&T settles SEC charge of selectively disclosing material information to Wall St. analysts
Hertz to pay $168 mln to settle over 95% of wrongful theft report claims
Glencore to pay Republic of Congo $180 mln over alleged corruption claims
Fraudsters target water infrastructure projects, OLAF closes several cases
Rhode Island man to pay more than $2.8 million in restitution for virtual currency fraud



Cambria Hotels opens in Minneapolis

All aboard the Heathrow Festive Express
Asuncion, Mother of Cities and Paraguay’s center of culture, music and shopping
"Pets with Love" Dog Adoption Carnival 2022 to be held in Hong Kong
Weather-resistant ArtWalk Downtown Billings, Montana
Dual branded Courtyard and Residence Inn by Marriott Hotel opens in Montreal


Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato, first super sports car for any terrain

New colorful Porsche 718 Style Edition models
2023 Toyota Prius Prime, solar panel roof and reliability
Volvo EX90, a car with updates
Cessna Citation CJ4 Gen2 jet, pursue your business goals while enjoying journey
GMC first Sierra EV marks turning point


Patchwork carpets, vintage Persian carpets made with unparalleled skill

Real life wallpapers, perfectly executed
A. Lange & Söhne, men's watches with true Saxonian DNA
Nella Vetrina, luxurious Italian designers bathroom vanities and furniture
Karastan rugs, durable and beautiful
Leather bags for every occasion and every life style


ASUS launches ExpertBook B9 for executives

Take Elektor Fortissimo and make your own high-end amplifier
RangeXTD, a Wi-Fi extender that actually works
Monitor II A.N.C. headphones, iconic Marshall sound
Zebra TC15, a clever mix of a mobile phone and a computer for business use
Bathroom speakers will make your relaxing even better


EU regulator backs bivalent COVID shots for primary vaccination

Strep A killed at least nine children in UK
Justice Department secures agreement with Alabama Medicaid to remove unlawful sobriety mandate for health care access
Pfizer and BioNTech apply for FDA authorization for Omicron-retooled vaccine booster in kids under 5
Cornwall first area in England to trial NHS Digital Health Check
Huge rise of scarlet fever cases in UK, 6 kids dead of Strep A


Maybe aliens are waiting to hear a signal from us first

NASA testing new robotic arm that really knows how to chill out
Mars is more active than previously thought
James Webb telescope produces an unparalleled view of the ghostly light in galaxy clusters
China's two meteorological satellites put into operation
Lagoon dries up as drought grips Peru