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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's Wrong with the RMAF Nuris?

It is sad that six people had to die in another helicopter crash.

The actual cause is not known but hints have been given about "weather conditions".
If one examines the crash history and casualties of the Nuri since it went operational in 1968, it seems that we have had more deaths after the Emergency.

Is there a maintenance attitude problem in the RMAF?
According to this paper, the pilot was scared of flying the Nuri "as he felt uneasy.

"During the conversation, he told me that he had complained to superiors many times about the problems he faced with the helicopter.

"He said he had informed them that the Nuri had problems with its fuel pump," Hashidee said.

"He said he would rather drive a truck to Kuantan, because he felt safer.""

Will the inquiry disclose what steps were taken to solve the fuel pump problems?

According to this reference, the Nuri has the capacity to fly 31 combat troops and I just wonder why the helicopter was flying with only six persons on a non-critical mission. Does the RMAF need to use up its quota of aviation fuel?

Of course there is now the usual call to upgrade or replace the Nuris with lots of commissions to be earned but if one studies the chart of accidents, it could point to pilot errors,maintenance weakness and operating procedures.

The chart is taken from the Star graphics above and analysed in a different manner. It looks as if maintenance was taken more seriously at first as the copters had to be combat ready during the Emergency.

From 1968 to 1981, there were only 4 deaths in a crash.
In 1981 there were two crashes resulting in 2 deaths and 13 injured.
1989 was a really bad year with 3 crashes and 37 deaths. The first incident of 1989 was an emergency landing the cause of which was uncertain. If it was a mechanical failure, could steps have been taken to prevent the next two accidents that caused 37 deaths?

Things improved after that with no accidents until 1996 with one crash and 5 deaths.
Then in 1997 there was a unexplained accident involving 2 copters that resulted in 11 deaths.

I suggest there were some improvements made as no accidents happened again until 2004 when there were 3 crashes that lost 5 lives.

The pattern of accidents and deaths is hardly random and could be caused by:
Change of personnel in charge of routine maintenance.
Change of suppliers for critical spare parts.
Change of maintenance contractors.
Change in operating procedures.

If this is the RMAF record during peacetime I wonder how we will cope with possible invaders with derelict air planes.

Graphics: Thanks to the Star


PeterP said...

I don't think there will be any mention of a "faulty" fuel pump during the enquiry. As usual the weather (Act of God) and the poor departed Pilot would be apportioned the blame.

Pak Zawi said...

This is the problem when the Minister in charge doesnt know how which is the priority in spending limited resources. Helicopters are useful to our nation in several functions. SAR operations, flood evacuation beside the normal army usage. He prefered to buy Sukhoi's and subamrines instead which is very limited in use.
So we have to keep on using these old and antiquated helicopters instead of procuring new ones. I had the chance to ride in one in 19990. The experience was scary as the whole aircraft was rattling from the rotors movement. The door nearly dropped off when opened after landing. Fortunately the personnel on bord with the help of a passenger managed to hold on to it so it didnt drop to the ground. At that time the craft was hovering some 15 feet from the ground.
Now its 17 yrs past and still they are in service. Its suicidal to ride in one now.