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Tail boom cracks have now been found in all but two of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone helicopters, six of which have been repaired.
“Repairs are underway for several aircraft, as our engineering and technical experts are working closely with Sikorsky to return the fleet to serviceability,” the RCAF said in a statement.
As of Dec. 16, tail cracking was repaired in six aircraft and fixes are underway on an additional four aircraft.
On Nov. 26, cracks were found on the tail of one of the helicopters undergoing a routine maintenance inspection. After the initial cracks were found, other aircraft at that squadron were inspected for the same problem and cracks were found on three other Cyclones. The same cracking issue was eventually found on 19 of 23 CH-148s, according to the Canadian Armed Forces.
A special inspection of all 23 aircraft was completed Dec. 9 and found cracks in only those 19 aircraft. Repairs on the first damaged aircraft were completed on Dec. 8, the CAF said in a statement.
One of the affected aircraft was flown from Halifax-class frigate HMCS Winnipeg as it returns to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in Victoria, British Columbia. In this specific case a one-time short ferry flight from the ship to its home base at 443 Squadron, Patricia Bay, Victoria, was authorized, in following a detailed airworthiness review.
“Minimal cracking was found on this particular aircraft,” the RCAF said. The RCAF “possesses a robust flight safety culture and Airworthiness Program and a highly skilled and experienced network of engineering and technical experts that oversee the maintenance of its aircraft fleets. It is thanks to this expertise we were able to identify a potential issue and initiate the necessary repairs.”
“The location of the cracks on the tail structure are unique for each aircraft, although they are on the aircraft’s frame and no cracking was found on the tail hinge or its components,” a CAF spokesperson told Vertical in an email on Dec. 9.
Unique repair schemes are being developed by Sikorsky for each aircraft, because the cracks found are different for each airframe. As individual unserviceable aircraft are repaired, they will be returned to service in a progressive manner.
The RCAF’s fleet of CH-148 Cyclones is not grounded or under an operational pause, the CAF spokesperson said.