[Updated 20 October 2017] – The Australian Army’s fleet of 22 armed reconnaissance Tiger helicopters is still grounded more than nine weeks after Airbus Helicopters put out a safety bulletin saying they had no idea why a German helicopter crashed in Africa, killing its two crew.
FILE PHOTO: An Australian Army Tiger helicopter at a forward arming and refuelling point (FARP) during Exercise Predators Talon & Griffin Guns, Mount Bundy Training Area (April 2017).
A Defence spokesman confirmed with CONTACT on 20 October 2017 that it was awaiting further advice before allowing the aircraft to fly again.
“The German accident investigation is ongoing and the Australian Defence Force has continued to suspend flight operations of the ARH Tiger fleet until the outcomes of the investigation are known,” Defence said.
The safety of every Tiger helicopter around the world was put under a cloud following a fatal crash in Africa on July 26.
One of four German-army Tiger helicopters deployed on a peacekeeping mission in Mali crashed after its main rotor blades fell off while flying at around 2000 feet, killing both pilots.
After preliminary investigations, Tiger manufacture Airbus Helicopters put out a safety bulletin on 11 August basically saying that they had not yet identified a part or a reason for the blades to separate from the aircraft and could not say whether it was a design or manufacturing fault or a maintenance error that caused the crash.
While the Airbus statement did not specifically ‘ground’ all Tiger helicopters, operators were left in a position where, when the manufacturer couldn’t guarantee the safety of the equipment, they had little other choice – and the ADF officially grounded its fleet on 14 August.
A Defence spokesman told CONTACT in August that, “Defence decided to cease flying operations of the Australian Tiger fleet until further information becomes available”.
Nine weeks later, it seems no further information has become available and the Australian Army’s fleet remains grounded.
However, according to a 9 October report in Defence Connect, the German army decided to resume flying operations ‘two weeks ago’ – late September.
. . .