Robinson say crashes result of pilot error

Robinson helicopters say pilots doing manoeuvres the aircraft aren't designed for has caused a number of fatal accidents in New Zealand, not a flaw in the helicopter's design.

The R22, R44 and R66 models make-up about 40 per cent of New Zealand's helicopter fleet but have also been the subject of 14 investigations by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) since 1996.

Robinson director of flight safety Bob Muse was in New Zealand on Wednesday for a meeting with TAIC to get the helicopter removed from the watchlist.

Mr Muse told RNZ he did not believe they should have been put on the watchlist in the first place and that pilot error was to blame for the accidents.

"We believe our aircraft is extremely safe and its well designed and it is very important that pilots fly any helicopter within the design limitations of the aircraft."

He said that both TAIC and the Civil Aviation Authority have pointed out that there were pilots who were "practising and demonstrating in-flight manoeuvres that are prohibited in our aircraft".

Mr Muse said the manoeuvres were what caused the mast-bumping - where the inner part of the main rotor blade and the main rotor drive shaft make contact - resulting in the helicopter breaking up during flight.

"We make the number 1 selling civilian helicopter in the world and our fleet of helicopters have flown 35 million flight hours worldwide - if there was a design issue or a flaw in it, it would absolutely be right in our face."

DOC permanently stopped using Robinson helicopters last month following concerns for staff safety. Eighteen lives have been lost in New Zealand Robinson helicopter accidents since 1996.