Heli fatals prompt changes


Pilots flying Robinson helicopters will be subject to new rules in the wake of a series of Queenstown accidents.

The Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed it’s doubling the minimum solo flying hours for R22s and R44s.

It has also increased the required level of training.

The fast-tracked rules come into force in July 2016.

Mountain Scene reported on the new rules back in May, when CAA began consultation with the aviation industry.

Director of Civil Aviation Graeme Harris says about 80 per cent of the industry feedback was supportive.

The review of the popular small helicopters was prompted by a Transport Accident Investigation Commission inquiry into a fatal R22 crash in Mount Aspiring National Park in 2011.

Queenstown student pilot Marcus Hoogvliet, 21, and Wanaka Helicopters instructor Graham Stott, 31, were killed in the 2011 accident.

Then, in November 2012, Wakatipu Aero Club chief instructor Julianne Kramer died in an R22 crash in Cardrona Valley.

The CAA will require pilots complete an approved Robinson safety awareness training or the equivalent set by the Robinson factory itself. Ongoing training will be required every two years.

Minimum flight time has been increased from 10 hours to 20 hours.

“These changes see New Zealand align with the requirements already in place in the United States, where the Robinson Helicopter Company designs and manufactures these aircraft,” Harris says.

TAIC is investigating three other fatal Robinson crashes, including February’s R44 crash which killed 18-year-old Queenstowner James Patterson-Gardner and Wanaka’s Stephen Combe, 42.