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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rotorcraft Report: Incidents Around World Raise Maintenance Issues

SERVICES

In addition to the Aug. 31 Air Evac Lifeteam crash in the U.S., accidents in Sweden and Israel have raised questions about the adequacy of helicopter maintenance.

The Swedish Accident Investigation Board reportedly has criticized that Scandinavian nation’s armed forces for their maintenance of helicopters. Press reports in Sweden said the board has found that gaps in the organization, competence, and resources of military rotorcraft maintenance caused a 2005 accident in which the tail section of a Eurocopter Super Puma failed and fell into the sea. No one was seriously injured in the incident, which occurred off Blekinge County in southern Sweden.

"It isn’t strange at all that this type of problem occurred," the head of the board, Göran Rosvall, told reporters. "Those involved were working in conditions too poor to allow them to do a good job."

The accident followed the closure of several military units and the consolidation of their personnel into surviving units. The two pilots of the Super Puma came from different units, according to the reports. One had been on duty for a week and was making his first night flight in eight months.

Israel’s air force last month ground its fleet of Bell Helicopter AH-1 Cobras after two pilots were killed in the Sept. 10 crash of one of the aircraft near the northern town of Afula. The Israeli Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, ordered a team of technical experts to study the accident.

The helicopter crashed about 10 minutes after take-off while on what was reported to be a routine training flight with another helicopter. It was carrying a large amount of explosives and was heavily damaged in a post-crash fire.

While no conclusion have been reached about the causes of the crash, witnesses reported that the aircraft appeared to lose a rotor blade before crashing to the ground.

Investigators are analyzing communications from the aircraft prior to the crash, seeking in part to determine whether the pilots transmitted anything about an onboard malfunction.

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