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Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Inquest Hears of Crash Helicopter’s Fatal Maintenance Flaw

A helicopter crash in the U.K. that killed a pilot and two mechanics flying as passengers in 2003 was caused by the wrong coating on a crucial part of the gearbox, according to a coroner’s inquest heard last week. The helicopter was on a test flight after its gearbox had been sent to Eurocopter for maintenance. Eyewitnesses to the accident described how the Twin Squirrel AS355 helicopter made a “grinding and screaming sound” before it hit the ground and burst into flames. The U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) discovered that Eurocopter had changed its production techniques and instructed German company FAG, which produced the rollers used in the gearboxes, to add the coating, which was designed to prevent slippage. However, instead of using the required zinc phosphate, the company applied a manganese phosphate coating, which the AAIB said caused the freewheel in the gearbox to slip more easily and put more pressure on the engines. More

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