Sat, May 19, 2007
Aussie Defense Boss Denies Link To '05 Accident
The Australian Navy's fleet of six aging Sea King maritime
patrol helicopters, based at Nowra on the New South Wales south
coast, were grounded Thursday over safety concerns after a routine
maintenance inspection found a safety pin missing from one of the
Two years ago a Sea King, operating off the HMAS Kanimbla,
crashed on the Indonesian island of Nias during tsunami relief
operations killing nine Department of Defense personnel. The Navy
blamed the crash on mechanical and maintenance failures similar to
those found Thursday, according to The Australian.
The entire sea King fleet was grounded at that time, too.
"Navy takes this matter very seriously and has initiated a full
investigation," Australian Fleet commander Rear Admiral Davyd
Thomas said. "I will lift the suspension only when I am satisfied
that it is appropriate to resume flying, which is expected by the
end of the month."
The chairwoman of the Federal Government's Defense and Veterans
Affairs Committee, Joanna Gash, has warned against linking
Thursday's action and the Nias crash, according to ABC News.
Gash said the Australian public can be assured the helicopters
are safe and the grounding is "just a precaution."
"I need to emphasize that this particular incident was totally
different to the previous one that we had. Certainly they were to
do with split pins, but they were certainly not critical to flight
safety," she said.
Australia's military is replacing the aging Sea King with a
fleet of 46 European-built MRH-90 helicopters at a cost of more
than $1.6 billion. The first two aircraft are due for delivery
later this year.
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