Apache fleet back to work after being grounded for cracked blade

Israeli Air Force Apache fleet resumes operations after “thorough, microscopic, and intensive” investigation.

An Israeli Apache helicopter fires a missile towards the northern Gaza Strip (photo credit: REUTERS)
An Israeli Apache helicopter fires a missile towards the northern Gaza Strip
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Three-and-a-half weeks after the Israel Air Force grounded its entire fleet of Apache attack helicopters, it will resume their operational activity on Wednesday, the military announced.
Last month, IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel grounded the Apaches after a technician found a crack in the blade of one of the helicopters during a routine maintenance check. Eshel then called for an investigation into the cause of the damage.
According to a senior IAF officer, the “thorough, microscopic and intensive” probe revealed the crack developed due to material fatigue after 2,000 hours of flight. The investigation, which was carried out by the IAF along with Boeing and the US Army, also found a crack in another area of the helicopter.
“During the investigation we located a number of small defects deep within the blade that were probably caused by the blade-manufacturing process. We believe that on the basis of the investigation, over time and after thousands of hours of flight, a crack developed due to fatigue,” the officer said.
As a result of the findings, the IAF decided to shorten the life of the blades by almost 80%, from 4,600 hours of flight time to 995 hours.
“This policy is different from the recommendations of the manufacturer as well as different from the way the US military works,” the senior officer said. “The manufacturer’s recommendation was not to change. We are much more stringent in this regard.”
The IAF has started X-raying all its Apache blades. More than 40 blades have already been inspected in addition to continuing its strict policy of maintenance by technicians, checking helicopters before each flight and after every 50 hours of flight.
“The challenge is now to bring the teams back and explain the results of the investigation so our pilots will be confident in flying the Apaches,” the officer said. “They need to be confident that they will return home.”
Both Boeing and the US Army have said they will continue their own investigations.