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Robinson R22 helicopter pilots are being cautioned of a drive belt risk following a fatal accident in north-west Queensland.

On 9 May 2011, a Robinson R22 Beta II helicopter crashed after its drive belts failed during mustering operations near Julia Creek (the drive belts transmit engine power to the helicopter's main and tail rotor blades). The pilot, who died in the accident, was the only person on board.

The ATSB preliminary investigation report, released today, highlights a number of factors that can cause drive belt failure. These include excessive wear due to the misalignment of the belt drive sheaves, and operating the helicopter beyond the manufacturer's recommended limits.

ATSB Chief Commissioner, Mr Martin Dolan, said the accident is a grim reminder of the dangers facing pilots who conduct mustering-type flights.

'Pushing these helicopters to and beyond their normal limits can lead to excessive wear and potentially disastrous consequences,' Mr Dolan said.

'The ATSB is urging Robinson R22 helicopter operators and maintainers to regularly and carefully check their R22 helicopter drive system for misalignment, abnormal wear or other indications of drive belt damage.

'Operators who find anything unusual with their R22 drive systems are asked to contact the ATSB on 1800 020 616.'

The investigation is continuing. The ATSB will release a final investigation report within 12 months.

More information on this investigation AO-2011-060 is available at the ATSB website.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has also previously released an Airworthiness bulletin on the Robinson R22 main rotor drive system, which can be found on the CASA website, www.casa.gov.au.

Media contact: 1800 020 616
 
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Last update 06 July 2011