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Thu, Jan 21, 2010

Argentine Coast Guard Helo Crashes, Two Dead

Pilots Had More Than 10,000 Hours Combined Experience

A Schweizer 300C helicopter of the Argentine Coast Guard went down Tuesday on a post-maintenance test flight at the San Fernando Naval Base. The aircraft had been recently released from maintenance and was scheduled to return to its law enforcement, anti-contraband and Search and Rescue duties in the northern portion of the country. The highly experienced crew of two did not survive the accident -- Prefect Marcelo Guillermo Dreher, commander of the unit, squadron instructor and pilot; and SubPrefect Carlos Sebastián Murcio, squadron maintenance chief and co-pilot, were killed impact. Both pilots had well over 5,000 hours of experience and a combined 19 years of military service.

"Meteorological conditions were optimal... the aircraft was just coming out of maintenance. It is not easy thinking what could have happened," said Senior Prefect Pedro Mele, Chief of Aviation Operations, in an interview with Argentine news media. Judicial investigators from the San Isidro region have commenced the accident investigation to determine the cause of the accident. "From the first 25 flight hours, all aircraft must be subjected to maintenance activities, and the more flights, the more items that are inspected," Prefect Mele explained. "We have performed incalculable inspections, these are very simple aircraft, very lightweight. This helicopter had more than 2,600 hours flight time and the pilot was an instructor."

Approximately ten minutes after taking off on a test flight, the aircraft plummeted into one of the runways at the Naval Base. Prefect Mele said  his attention "was drawn to the fact that the aircraft crashed on its side and from considerable altitude. The aircraft was in perfect condition and all the ground tests that must be done were performed. There was no indication of any possibility of an accident. We currently have five helicopters of this type, assigned to the search for swimmers who disappeared during a competition in the Misiones region."

FMI: www.prefecturanaval.gov.ar/institucional/en/index.htm

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