Sunday, May 26, 2024

RNZAF NH90 helicopter grounded in wake of fatal Australian crash

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) has grounded its NH90 medium utility helicopters for 48 hours as it completes a risk assessment following last week’s Australian Army MRH90 Taipan helicopter crash which killed four airmen.

The tragic crash occurred in the Whitsundays, off Queensland, during Exercise Talisman Sabre on Friday night.

The MRH90 Taipan and NH90s are the same aircraft type, RNZAF said in a statement today.

The Chief of the RNZAF, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark, said the pause on flying of the eight helicopters was a precautionary approach. The situation will be reassessed tomorrow (Thursday) morning.

“On Monday night the Australian Defence Force formally revised its position on their fleet of Taipan helicopters, going from an operational pause to a cessation of flying,” said Air Vice-Marshal Clark.

“While the RNZAF has no current reason to believe our NH90s are not safe to fly, as a precautionary approach we decided to pause our flying for 48 hours to carry out a risk assessment. At the end of that time, we will make a decision whether to resume flying or not.”

He said the operational pause was not a military “grounding”, which is a formal declaration by regulators that an aircraft type cannot fly.

Air Vice-Marshal Clark said while flying will be paused, if an in extremis situation arose with a real and immediate risk to life that required the NH90s to respond, they may be flown.  However, it would depend on the particular circumstances.

The RNZAF’s eight NH90 helicopters are operated by No. 3 Squadron based at Ohakea in Manawatū. Three of the helicopters are currently deployed on Exercise Talisman Sabre in Australia and were not involved in Friday’s incident. 

“Our thoughts remain with our Australian colleagues during this tragic time,” Air Vice-Marshal Clark said.

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