• July 24, 2024

All except two of the Canadian CH-148 Cyclones exhibit fissures in their tail sections.

Cracks in the tail booms have been detected in all but a pair of the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone helicopters belonging to the Royal Canadian Air Force. To date, six of these helicopters have undergone necessary repairs.

“Our engineering and technical experts, in collaboration with Sikorsky, are actively engaged in repair operations to ensure the fleet’s full operational capability,” stated the Royal Canadian Air Force. As of December 16, tail cracks have been successfully addressed in six aircraft, while ongoing efforts are underway to rectify the issue in four additional aircraft.

During a routine maintenance inspection on November 26, a tail crack was discovered in one of the helicopters. Subsequently, a thorough examination of other aircraft within the squadron revealed similar cracks in three additional Cyclones. Ultimately, the Canadian Armed Forces identified the same cracking problem in 19 out of the 23 CH-148s.

 

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On December 9, a comprehensive inspection of all 23 aircraft was conducted, revealing cracks solely in the 19 identified aircraft. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) confirmed the successful completion of repairs on the initial damaged aircraft on December 8, as stated in their official announcement.

As part of the process, one of the affected aircraft was relocated from the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Winnipeg during its return to the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in Victoria, British Columbia. In this specific scenario, a short ferry flight from the ship to its designated home base at 443 Squadron, Patricia Bay, Victoria, was authorized after undergoing a meticulous airworthiness review.

 

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According to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), this specific aircraft exhibited only minimal cracking. The RCAF takes pride in maintaining a strong flight safety culture and an Airworthiness Program, supported by a skilled and experienced team of engineering and technical experts responsible for the maintenance of their aircraft fleets. It is through this collective expertise that they were able to identify a potential issue and promptly initiate the required repairs.

In correspondence with Vertical via email on December 9, a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) spokesperson stated that the location of the cracks on the tail structure differs for each individual aircraft. However, it is important to note that the cracks were found on the aircraft’s frame, with no signs of cracking detected on the tail hinge or its related components.

 

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Sikorsky is currently developing unique repair strategies for each individual aircraft, taking into account the distinct cracks found on their respective airframes. As the necessary repairs are carried out on each unserviceable aircraft, they will be progressively reintroduced into active service. It is important to note that, according to the Canadian Armed Forces spokesperson, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s fleet of CH-148 Cyclones is not currently grounded or subject to an operational pause.

The CH-148 Cyclone serves as Canada’s primary ship-borne maritime helicopter, fulfilling various roles such as surface and sub-surface surveillance, search-and-rescue missions, and tactical transport, among others. Since 2015, Sikorsky, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, has delivered a total of 23 Cyclones to Canada. The delivery of an additional four Cyclones is anticipated to be finalized by 2022.

 

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In an email to Vertical, a representative from Sikorsky expressed their commitment to collaborating with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in resolving the issue, emphasizing that safety remains their utmost priority. Sikorsky has devised a comprehensive plan to address the cracking, recognizing that each aircraft necessitates a tailored approach to repair the affected components. The repair process entails the removal and replacement of damaged parts, accompanied by reinforcements to enhance overall structural integrity.

Tragically, in April 2020, during a routine surface surveillance mission conducted by a CH-148 Cyclone from HMCS Fredericton, an incident occurred in the Ionian Sea, resulting in the unfortunate loss of four RCAF crewmembers and two passengers. Following a thorough investigation, it was determined that an undisclosed software issue related to the automatic flight control system (AFCS) played a significant role in the accident.

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