Cracks in tail of RCAF Cyclone helicopters raise ‘serious concern’, expert says – .

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Cracks in tail of RCAF Cyclone helicopters raise ‘serious concern’, expert says – .


Cracks in the tail of 19 Royal Canadian Air Force Cyclone helicopters are cause for concern, according to an expert.
Michael Byers, professor and defense policy analyst at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said the cracks could indicate much bigger issues with the plane.

“Each of these helicopters costs over $ 150 million, and the oldest helicopter in the fleet is only five years old,” he said on Sunday. “So the fact that there is this problem raises very serious concerns about the quality of the helicopters, the safety of the helicopters. “

Only two of Canada’s 23 Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone helicopters are currently airworthy. The rest of the multi-billion dollar fleet is in need of repair.

On November 26, cracks were discovered in the tail of one of the 12 Wing Shearwater helicopters in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. For this reason, the rest of the fleet was examined and most of the helicopters were found to be compromised.

On Saturday, the Department of National Defense (DND) said only four of the cyclones were affected, but after further questions from CBC News, it was revealed that there were in fact 19 with cracks. Two helicopters were out of service due to other issues.

“I’m concerned about how little news we have so far,” Byers said. “It appears to be a fleet-wide problem… It is obviously a problem in terms of Canada’s capabilities. These are the helicopters that go on our frigates and are an essential part of our maritime capability. “

Michael Byers is Professor and Defense Policy Analyst at the University of British Columbia. (SRC)

In the early 2000s, the CH-148 Cyclone was chosen to replace the RCAF’s five-decade-old CH-124 Sea Kings. Considered a “development” helicopter, Canada has the only cyclones in the world.

The Cyclone purchase was heavily criticized, with former Conservative Defense Minister Peter MacKay calling the Cyclone program “the worst purchase in Canadian history.”

The original 2004 budget for supplying the Cyclone was $ 3.2 billion, but that number increased to $ 5.7 billion in 2014.

According to DND, “the cost of major in-service support to 2038 is $ 5.8 billion.”

Canada is still awaiting delivery of five cyclones.

“We’re spending over $ 5 billion on this small fleet of helicopters, so we have to get it right. And so far everything is bad, ”said Byers.

“A bunch of lemons? “

Byers said that since the Cyclones are new, they shouldn’t have such big and widespread problems.

“Did we buy a bunch of lemons?” Is it a faulty airplane that will require billions and billions of dollars of additional taxpayer dollars to keep it safe and operational? “

Byers said it was a good sign the plane was grounded and that the worst-case scenario would be for the Air Force to try to “fend for itself” to avoid further criticism of the Cyclones.

Royal Canadian Air Force pilots fly a Cyclone helicopter along the coast of Nova Scotia in 2018. (Jonathan Villeneuve / Radio-Canada)

“The Canadian military has to get to the bottom of this, it has to solve the problem and it has to be completely transparent throughout this process, because it is the lives of young men and women that are put at risk every time. these planes fly. , ” he said.

Loaded story

This is not the first time that we are concerned about the rear part of the helicopter.

In 2017, the Canadian Forces immobilized their Cyclones after Sikorsky issued a global advisory calling for security checks to be carried out.

Operators were instructed to immediately check the tail rotor section of the S-92 aircraft. Cyclones are a militarized variant of this aircraft.

In 2009, an S-92 helicopter crashed off the coast of Newfoundland due to an oil pressure problem, killing 17 people.

Then, in 2020, a cyclone crashed in the waters off Greece due to an issue with the autopilot function, killing six members of the Canadian military.

Impact on operations

Seventeen of the Cyclone aircraft are based in Shearwater and six in Patricia Bay, British Columbia.

Part of the fleet was supposed to participate in Operation LENTUS, to rescue after the massive flooding in British Columbia, but this was not possible due to the cracks. Older military planes, search and rescue helicopters, and non-military planes were used instead.

“12 Wing Shearwater, which encompasses the entire fleet, prioritizes the repair order to maximize the return to serviceability of each aircraft,” a DND spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News.

The ministry says it hopes to have some of the helicopters in the air in the next few days.

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