On March 25, 2022, a Robinson R44 helicopter with two individuals onboard fell from the sky and burst into flames in Rowlett, Texas. The helicopter crash killed 42-year-old student pilot Ty Wallis and a female flight instructor.
Authorities said the Robinson helicopter went down in an empty lot at the corner of Lakeview Parkway and Grisham Drive in Rowlett at approximately 11:30 a.m. local time. Witnesses said it was clear that something was wrong with the R44 before it went down.
Scott Ussery, who witnessed the fatal crash, noticed the R44 “started swinging a little bit” before eventually “it started going out of control." Authorities say the tail rotor separated from the aircraft and landed on a building before the chopper impacted with the ground and burst into flames. Onlookers tried in vain to extinguish the blaze and help the occupants, but the heat and flames were too intense to save them.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the Robinson R44 helicopter (N514CD) was registered to Sky Helicopters based in Desoto, Texas.
What Caused the Rowlett Helicopter Crash?
It could take months before investigators issue a report on the cause of the fatal helicopter crash in Rowlett. Debris from the wreckage of the downed Robinson R44 is being analyzed by federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the agency responsible for investigating aviation crashes.
Aviation accident investigations typically take between 12 and 36 months to complete. The agency will issue a preliminary report in the weeks following the accident, then continue with the investigation until officials have determined a probable cause (or causes). Once the investigation is complete, NTSB will issue a final report and issue any applicable safety recommendations to reduce the likelihood of similar crashes happening again.
NTSB officials have indicated that the emphasis of the investigation is to “find the mechanism which caused the tail to separate from the helicopter.” Video footage of the crash shows the tail rotor detached from the chopper in midair. Officials later found the tail rotor roughly 100 yards from the point of impact.
Veteran helicopter crash lawyer Ronald L. M. Goldman says the NTSB will investigate a variety of issues, including but not limited to:
- Maintenance records for any anomalies
- Possible mechanical failure
- Actions of the instructor pilot
- Training of the instructor pilot
“It looks like the tail rotor might have separated due to some condition of the tail rotor system, or the main rotor blades might have severed the tail boom,” says Goldman. “The question now for investigators is what caused the tail rotor to depart from the helicopter while in flight?” It could be defective design; it could be a mechanical failure. We will have to wait and see what the NTSB finds, but we have seen this type of crash before with the same R44 model, which is deeply concerning.”
Robinson Helicopter Crash Statistics as of March 2022
While California-based Robinson Helicopter Company is an industry leader, Robinson helicopters have been involved in hundreds of fatal accidents and incidents. According to government data*, Robinson R22, R44, and R66 models have been involved in over 1,620 aviation accidents or incidents globally. Robinson helicopter crashes have killed at least 724 people and many more have sustained injuries.
- Robinson R22 – 1011 total accidents; 186 were fatal; 274 people have died.
- Robinson R44 – 562 total accidents; 204 were fatal; 407 people have died.
- Robinson R66 – 40 total accidents; 18 were fatal; 39 people have died.
The Rowlett, Texas helicopter crash is not the first time the R44 has lost its tail boom in midair. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigated a 2016 crash in which a Robinson R44 broke apart in midair and crashed in the Mount Windsor National Park outside of Mossman, Queensland. The agency reported that one of the main rotor blades struck and separated a section of the tail cone of the helicopter from the airframe, causing a near-vertical descent of the helicopter. Per ATSB, the “wreckage indicated there was low engine power and rotor speed at the time of the strike, which was likely the result of a main rotor blade stall event.”
Law Firm with Proven Case Results Against Robinson Helicopter Co.
If someone in your family was harmed in a Robinson helicopter crash, an aviation accident attorney with decades of experience and a track record of success in cases against Robinson can help protect and vindicate your legal rights. Baum Hedlund trial lawyers have won more than half a billion for clients in aviation cases and more than $4 billion across all areas of practice. We have litigated over a dozen cases for clients who were injured or lost loved ones in preventable crashes involving Robinson helicopters.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more experienced aviation accident law firm in the United States. Some of our top plane and helicopter crash settlements and verdicts include:
- $17.5 million for the wrongful death of a passenger in a major plane crash
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To speak with a lawyer about your case, please fill out our contact form as soon as you are able or call (855) 948-5098 for a free and confidential case evaluation.
* Data current as of March 2022. In October of 2020, NTSB changed its data search tool to the Case Analysis and Reporting Online (known as the CAROL query system). The CAROL system does not include accidents prior to 2008. This is problematic for aviation accident statistics because, in the case of Robinson Helicopters, the first model was introduced in 1979, which means the CAROL system does not include decades of Robinson crash history. Baum Hedlund tabulated the data above using the total number of Robinson helicopter from the previous NTSB database and added the new crashes since 2008 using the new CAROL query system.