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Helicopter maker involved in Callaway County crash has history of issues

Federal regulators have pointed out issues with the type of helicopter that crashed in Callaway County on Wednesday for decades.

The National Transportation Safety Board finished a years-long study in 1996 on the dangers posed by the Robinson Helicopter Company’s R22 model. The report said many of the 31 crashes throughout the 1980s were due to loss of main rotor control, and blamed “abrupt pilot control inputs” for that loss. Those abrupt movements would cause the main rotor blade to strike the helicopter itself.

The R22 was back under NTSB review in 2008 after several rotor blades broke mid-flight. The Federal Aviation Administration changed rules then to require greater inspection of Robinson-made helicopter blades before takeoff.

Records from the FAA show that Charles Prather, 47, was flying a 2005 Robinson R22 Beta when he crashed in the Potawatomi Off-road Park. The helicopter was owned by Spitzer Helicopter Leasing out of Woodland Hills, California.

Eric Spitzer, owner of the leasing company, said he leased that particular aircraft to a flight school teaching Prather how to fly. Spitzer did not specify which flight school it was.

Loretta Conley, a spokesperson for Robinson Helicopters, said accident investigators with the company will help federal authorities look into the causes of the crash.

“Robinson is aware of the tragic Missouri accident which occurred on Oct. 17,” Conley said in an email. “Out thoughts and prayers are with the families, loved ones, and friends of those affected by the accident.”

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