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Enroute from Curtain Springs to Alice Springs, while flying low and slow to observe cattle, the pilot heard a loud noise followed by an immediate increase in engine RPM and decrease in rotor RPM. An autorotational approach and landing was carried out into the rough hilly terrain, but the helicopter landed heavily and rolled over. A subsequent investigation revealed that the clutch assembly upper bearing had failed allowing the engine drive to disconnect from the rotor system. The bearing was a commercial bearing, not a genuine Robinson bearing, although the manufacturer's instructions clearly state that only genuine bearings, having the correct internal clearances, must be installed. A specialist report indicated that the failure was due to brinelling of the bearing races, possibly caused by the bearing being dropped or damaged during assembly of the clutch. There was also evidence that the bearing had not been sufficiently lubricated which would have decreased its time to failure. Although the accident was survivable, severe spinal and lower back injuries were suffered by both occupants. It was reported that the space below the seats contained a number of hard items including a hand fuel pump. The flight manual for this type of helicopter, and placards placed near the under seat compartments caution against placing hard objects in them as they could cause injury to occupants if the seats crush while absorbing energy during a heavy landing. SAFETY ACTION As a result of the investigation, the Civil Aviation Authority issued Airworthiness Directive AD/R-22/39, which requires an inspection of the upper clutch actuator bearing of all R22 helicopters to ensure only approved parts are fitted.
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 16KB]
General details
Date: 21 June 1994 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 14:00 CST  
 Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
 Occurrence type: Forced/precautionary landing 
Release date: 17 April 1996  
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: Serious 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Robinson Helicopter Co 
Aircraft model: R22 
Aircraft registration: VH-HQX 
Sector: Helicopter 
Damage to aircraft: Substantial 
Departure point:Curtain Springs NT
Destination:Alice Springs NT
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Last update 21 October 2014