Half of German navy helicopters grounded

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Half of German navy helicopters grounded

Half of the German navy helicopter fleet has been grounded after engineers found large tears in the panelling of a British-made machine on deployment.


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The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that crew aboard the frigate Lübeck found a 20-centimetre rip on the tail of one of their aircraft in June.

A Defence Ministry report seen by the paper shows that the navy decided “to stop all flight operations with this model until further developments,” and ordered checks to be made on all of its 22 machines.

The engineers found similar rips on three different machines and “substantial damage” to several more, leading the navy to ground all 22 of that model.

The Sea Lynx Mk88A helicopters, made by British company Westland, are used by the navy for reconnaissance, submarine-hunting and transport missions and make up half of the German navy's helicopter fleet.

None of them are currently cleared to fly, as they are all undergoing further maintenance. The fleet already had an “operational readiness rate” of around 35 percent for 2014, around the same as the previous year.

New rules introduced by the navy's chief aircraft engineer, including a lower limit on the maximum load the aircraft can carry, risk reducing the fleet's flight hours by up to 75 percent, the report found.

The navy had planned to deploy helicopters from the 5th naval aviation squadron aboard Lübeck which left for the Indian Ocean on Monday as part of the European 'Atalanta' mission to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa.

A ministry spokesman said that a P-3C Orion reconnaissance plane would be used instead.

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