Israeli Apache helicopter lands at Ramon air base.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN - REUTERS)
An interim report into the deadly Apache helicopter crash in southern Israel at the Ramon Air Force Base has confirmed that there was no connection between the crash and the reason behind the grounding of the entire fleet earlier this summer.
Around 9 p.m. on August 7th an A-model Apache helicopter from the Magic Touch Squadron was returning from a training exercise when the pilots alerted the tower at Ramon Airbase that they were experiencing a technical malfunction. The Apache was on its final approach to land when it went down between the two runways in the base.
Headed by Col.A, the instructor of the Air Force School of Command and former commander of a helicopter squadron, the report confirmed the preliminary findings which found that the pilots identified a malfunction in the helicopter's steering ability which led to the deadly crash.
The crash killed Maj.(res). David Zohar and seriously injured 1rst Lt.On whose condition has since improved. Last Thursday he was moved to a recovery ward in Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital.
According to a statement released by the IDF, the purpose of the report was to present the interim findings, directions for further investigation and recommendations for immediate actions required in light of what has been discovered during the preliminary findings.
The report of the incident was presented to Israel Air Force Chief Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin and the families of the pilots. Norkin accepted the interim report's recommendations and instructed to carry out a comprehensive investigation with the cooperation of the Apache's American manufacturer Boeing and the US military.
On Thursday sources close to the family of Maj. (res) David Zohar were quoted by Yediot Aharonot as saying that the family had rejected the conclusions of the report and claimed that the Air Force was hiding information about the real circumstances of the accident.
According to a statement released by the army, Norkin decided to keep the military’s Apaches grounded until a full investigation “is completed and all the actions required to return them to full fitness are carried out.”
Following the crash former, IAF chief Maj.-Gen Amir Eshel grounded the entire fleet of Apache helicopters. Israel has two squadrons of Apaches which fly out of the Ramon Air Base in the Negev desert and provide close air support for ground troops.
In June, Eshel grounded the entire fleet of Apache helicopters after a technician found a crack in the blade of one of the helicopters during a routine maintenance check. Eshel called for an investigation into what exactly caused the damage to the blade.
After an extensive investigation a second crack was discovered in the original helicopter which had developed due to fatigue, the aircraft had clocked over 2,000 flight hours. The IAF therefore decided to shorten the life of the blades by 80% from 4,600 hours to 995 flight hours.
The problem was not found to be widespread and the Apache fleet began to return to operational service in July after the investigation was completed. According to IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the Apache that crashed was part of that gradual process.
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