Aviation safety investigations & reports

Tail rotor drive malfunction, Robinson R22, Geraldton Aerodrome, Western Australia, 20 February 2021

Investigation number:
Status: Active
Investigation in progress


The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has commenced a transport safety investigation into the tail rotor malfunction of a  Robinson R22 Beta, registration VH-HCX, near Geraldton in Western Australia. 

On 20 February 2021, the helicopter was being operated by a sole pilot for an early morning repositioning flight from a station property near Geraldton to Kalbarri, Western Australia. Shortly after departure, the helicopter’s engine commenced a period of ‘rough running’, and with that onset the pilot elected to conduct a precautionary run-on landing in a yard adjacent the departure helipad. The intermittent period of engine operation reportedly eased, after which, the pilot proceeded to lift the helicopter into a low hover. During this the pilot encountered a loss of antitorque from the tail rotor system leading to an uncommanded rotation of the helicopter. The pilot immediately resettled the helicopter and on landing shutdown the engine. The pilot’s post-flight inspection of the helicopter identified that the tail rotor drive shaft had fractured.

As part of the investigation, the ATSB will review review and analyse any available recorded data, interview involved parties and gather any other relevant information.  

A report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation. However, should any critical safety issues be identified at any stage during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate safety action can be taken.

General details
Date: 20 February 2021   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 0630 WDT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Geraldton   Investigation phase: Evidence collection  
State: Western Australia    
  Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: None  
Anticipated completion: 3rd Quarter 2021    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R22 Beta  
Aircraft registration VH-HCX  
Serial number 1582  
Operator Fortescue Helicopters  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Damage to aircraft Minor  
Departure point Geraldton Aerodrome, Western Australia  
Destination Kalgoorlie, Western Australia  
Last update 05 March 2021