EASA orders safety checks of AW169, AW189 tail rotors

Operators of Leonardo AW169 and AW189 helicopters have been ordered to conduct immediate inspections of their tail rotors in the wake of a fatal AW169 crash in Leicester, England, on Oct. 27.

The AW169 helicopter was a familiar sight at the stadium.
The AW169 helicopter that crashed in Leicester was a familiar sight at King Power Stadium. Pete White Photo
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In an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) issued on Nov. 7, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) called for AW169 and AW189 operators to check for correct installation of the tail rotor servo-actuator within five flight hours or 24 hours, whichever occurs first.

The AD was prompted by the crash of an AW169 owned by Leicester City Football Club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha as it departed from King Power Stadium following a match. Bystander video showed the aircraft performing a vertical takeoff from the field, then spinning out of control before transitioning into forward flight.

The aircraft crashed outside of the stadium and burst into flames, killing all five people on board, including Srivaddhanaprabha.

The United Kingdom’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is conducting an investigation into the accident, “the root cause of which has not been identified,” according to the EASA AD.

However, as a precautionary measure, manufacturer Leonardo Helicopters issued an emergency alert service bulletin (ASB) for AW169s, instructing operators to check for correct installation of the tail rotor servo-actuator. Subsequently, Leonardo issued an ASB with the same instructions for AW189 helicopters, which have a similar tail rotor design.

The EASA AD requires operators to comply with the instructions of the applicable ASB. “The incorrect installation of the [tail rotor] servo-actuator, if not detected and corrected, depending on the flight condition, could possibly result in loss of control of the helicopter,” the AD states.

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Operators who discover damage or other findings during the inspection of the tail rotor servo-actuator are required to contact Leonardo for approved instructions. Operators with no findings are instructed to “apply a paint mark on the nut from the rod end to the hinge bracket element in accordance with the instructions of the applicable ASB.”

The AAIB has yet to issue an interim report on its investigation into the Leicester accident. In its last update on Nov. 2, the agency reported that it was able to successfully download recordings from the aircraft’s digital flight recorder.

“Our inspectors are verifying the extracted information and have started the detailed analysis of its contents,” the agency stated.

6 thoughts on “EASA orders safety checks of AW169, AW189 tail rotors

  1. However, technical failure of the rear rotor – tightening the servomotor to control the propeller … However, I think that helicopters can not get around without that, as well as that you could install an automatic engine switch, after detecting the excessive rotation of the helicopter along the engine axis towards acting like the moment of reaction .. Similar to what we have in the phone, how we turn it, only in the professional aviation system .. Automatic detection of such failures, would give the chances of regaining control over the helicopter, which ended well with our Polish Prime Minister Miller ..

  2. One would have thought these copters would have been grounded while the investigations regarding the Leicester crash are ongoing, but I note some of them are still flying!

  3. Perhaps a better understanding of the systems, and the proper way to deal with failures, ie; more training for the pilots, could have had a much different outcome in this case.

  4. Most of these pilots have full understanding of the systems. When you have a catastrophic failure, whether through one of the servos, drive shaft or the gearbox, in a highly populated area at low level no amount of training is going to help, you just need to be extraordinarily lucky. When carrying out air tests on Chinooks we never undertook auto-rotation practise below 5000 feet, just in case.

  5. A Tail Rotor Failure in a High Powered setting in a High Hover and or a Vortex Ring Condtion of the Tail Rotor by allowing the Tail to swing around into the dirty air both would resuly in a high velocity rotation of the aircraft.
    The Pilot would have to be very quick to turn both engines off to arrest the rotation and then he finds himself right in the Height velocity curve ( dead mans curve) all this going on at night so he would have darkness with one view and then quite pssibly bright Stadium Lights, he looks to have opted for the car park and one would expect a minimum of a very heavy landing, In this case the engine was although Turned Off ( by reports) the Turbine wheels would have contacted the case in the very heavy landing and with a shower of sparks ignited the spilt fuel.
    R.I.P Pilot

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