Saturday 30 September 2023

Australia's Taipan helicopter fleet grounded permanently


Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles confirmed yesterday that Australia’s Taipan helicopters have now been permanently grounded. This news comes just months after four crew members died in a horror crash during a military exercise in the Whitsundays. 
Captain Daniel Lyon, Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Corporal Alexander Naggs and Warrant Officer Joseph Laycock, died after their Taipan crashed near Hamilton Island during Exercise Talisman Sabre in July this year.

Previous concerns had been raised over the MRH90 helicopters' reliability and serviceability, including incidents involving engine failures and performance issues.

In a statement released last week Defence Minister Richard Marles announced the fleet would not return to flying operations ahead of its planned withdrawal date of 2024.

“The government’s highest priority is the safety and wellbeing of our people," Mr Marles said.

The fleet will be replaced with 40 UH-60M Black Hawks, which are already flying in Australia after arriving from the United States. 
The permanent grounding of the fleet of 47 Taipans will leave the Defence Force with a capability gap until the full supply of replacement Black Hawk helicopters arrives from the US.

The MRH90 choppers were grounded on the day of the catastrophic crash and were to remain out of service until they were deemed safe to operate.

The MRH90 has been plagued with issues from the start.

On the 28th of July 2023 four soldiers were killed when their Taipan (040-040) crashed near Townsville.

On the 22nd of March 2023 another Taipan (040-025) made a forced landing in Jervis Bay off New South Wales during a nighttime antiterrorist exercise.

In April 2021 the fleet was again grounded over safety concerns. Defence says it’s a precaution: “The issue related to the application of the helicopter’s maintenance policy in the helicopter’s IT support system.” Insiders paint the issue as more serious and “potentially catastrophic”.

In March 2020 more than half the fleet was reportedly grounded due to an issue with cabin doors.

In July 2019 the entire fleet was grounded because of an issue with the helicopter’s tail rotor blade.

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