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Risky fuel tanks need to be refitted, chopper firms told
12/03/2012 - The transport safety investigator says owners of Robinson R44 helicopters must get them fitted with a new type of fuel tank to avoid the risk of deaths.
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The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating fatal helicopter crash at Jaspers Brush, NSW, last month and another in Cessnock 12 months earlier, both involving R44 choppers.
In each case, the American-built helicopters crashed and caught on fire, killing all occupants.
US cinematographer Mike deGruy, 60, and Australian TV writer-producer Andrew Wight, 51, died in the Jaspers Brush incident after they set out to film a submersible vehicle launch in Jervis Bay.
In its preliminary report on the 2012 incident, the bureau notes the Robinson Helicopter Company had advised R44 owners in December 2010 to replace the all-aluminium fuel tanks with bladder-type fuel tanks.
These different fuel tanks improve resistance to post-accident fuel leaks, which can cause fires.
But the manufacturer told the bureau that only about one in 10 of the helicopters had been retrofitted.
"The Australian Transport Safety Bureau encourages all operators and owners of R44 helicopters that are fitted with all-aluminium fuel tanks to note the circumstances of this accident," the bureau's report states.
It says owners and operators should actively consider replacing aluminium fuel tanks as soon as possible.
The bureau is continuing its full investigation into the Jaspers Brush crash.
Source: AAP NewsWire
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