Airbus issues safety bulletin for three helicopter types

Rafael Luiz Canossa

Following the crash of a helicopter that killed six people at the end of August in Norway, Airbus Helicopters issued an emergency alert service bulletin for an immediate visual inspection of recently delivered aircraft. This is the second safety bulletin issued by the helicopter manufacturer in a month.

On August 31, 2019, an AS350 B3E, registered LN-OFU and operated by Helitrans, crashed near a music festival in Alta, in the far north of Norway. The company was offering sight-seeing tours for the festival-goers. The six people on board were killed. The aircraft involved had less than 73 flying hours.

While the investigation is still in progress, “preliminary findings linked to the connection between the engine and the main gearbox has lead AH to issue an Emergency Alert Service Bulletin (EASB) calling for immediate visual inspection of this area for recently delivered AS350, AS550 and EC130 helicopters,” announced the Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN) in a press release, adding that it ”has, at this stage, not concluded whether, or not, failure of the connection between the engine and the main gearbox is a causal factor”. According to Airbus, the EASB bulletins are intended to ensure the airworthiness of the aircraft. Two experts from the French Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority (BEA) are assisting the AIBN.

Last month, on August 8, 2019, the German Federal Armed Forces grounded their fleet of EC665 Tiger attack helicopters following a safety warning issued by Airbus Helicopters. The manufacturer warned that a titanium bolt of the Main Rotor Control may show unusual weakness and break during flights. Such failure could potentially lead to a crash. Thus, the Bundeswehr decided to ground the fleet and inspect each aircraft. 

The same problem was also identified on the German NH90 and EC135 helicopters, but as the material is not used in critical areas, they were allowed to continue operating for now.

A month before, the Australian defense ministry launched a request for information (RFI) to replace its 22 EC665 Tigers, criticizing the aircraft for its low availability and high maintenance cost. In a jab to the Airbus aircraft, the RFI asked for the 29 replacement attack helicopters to be “proven and mature, off-the-shelf”.

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