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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Cracks found in 21 of 23 Canadian military cyclone helicopters

HALIFAX – Cracks were found in the tails of all but two Canadian military Cyclone helicopters, the RAF confirmed Thursday, adding two more aircraft to the previous list.

The cracks were first discovered in one of the naval helicopters during a routine inspection on November 26 at the 443rd Marine Helicopter Squadron in Patricia Bay, British Columbia.

By December 5, the Air Force said it had found damage in the same area in 19 helicopters. At the time, the military said that two cyclones had no tail defects, and that the remaining two in the fleet needed longer maintenance and would be tested later.

A military spokesman said Thursday that cracks were found in two more aircraft, including one of two cyclones that were repaired initially.

“In one case, the cracks were so small that they were not noticed during the initial inspection,” the spokeswoman said in an email.

As of Thursday, six aircraft manufactured by Sikorsky were repaired, and four more were in the repair shop.

RCAF said Thursday that the cause of the cracks has yet to be determined.

“This is definitely what our experts are researching, given the importance of understanding how this happened and affected so many aircraft in the fleet,” Lt. Col. Adam Thomson wrote about this in an email.

Meanwhile, one of the damaged helicopters was to be delivered from the deck of the frigate HMCS Winnipeg in Patricia Bay, north of Victoria. The warship was returning to its base in Esquimalta, British Columbia, after completing a four-month voyage in the Asia-Pacific region.

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“In this particular case, a single short ferry ride from the ship to its base at 443 Squadron, Patricia Bay, was permitted in accordance with the detailed airworthiness survey,” the RAF said in a statement. “Minimal cracks were found on this particular aircraft.”

The Air Force said the cracks are unique to each CH-148 cyclone, but said they were all located on the aircraft’s frame.

According to the military, the American cyclone manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft has developed a fix that involves the installation of reinforcements to increase the strength of the airframe. A Sikorsky spokesman confirmed this week that cracks were found in the forward portions of the tail cones – the portion of the tail closest to the fuselage.

Cyclone’s fleet has not technically been grounded or put on hold, but the military has confirmed that the damaged aircraft has been suspended from regular flights.

The squadron in Patricia Bay has six cyclones. The entire fleet is overseen by 12 Wing Shearwater near Halifax, which has 17 helicopters.

One cyclone crashed off the coast of Greece in April 2020, killing all six troops on board.

In 2004, the Canadian government agreed to pay $ 3.2 billion for 28 cyclones, four of which have yet to be delivered.

From Michael McDonald

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