IAF: November crash of Yasur helicopter could have been prevented

Final report accuses manufacturer of not telling IAF of defect after it was identified.

An IAF Yasur helicopter, often used in search-and-rescue missions (photo credit: OREN ROZEN / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
An IAF Yasur helicopter, often used in search-and-rescue missions
The IAF has accused Sikorsky, the manufacturer of the Yasur helicopter, of not providing all information which could have prevented the crash of one of them in November.
The initial fire was caused by a malfunction in one of the relays leading to the helicopter’s left motor which caused the platform to catch fire.
”The relays provided by the company, rapidly eroded,” the military said on Friday in a statement.
“The lack of relays, provided by the company, led to rapid erosion,” the military said on Friday in a statement, adding that “although the defect was identified by the company, the information was not provided to the IAF.”
On November 26, a Yasur CH-53 helicopter was completely destroyed following a technical malfunction in its engine. The helicopter was one of three en route to a base in southern Israel for a training exercise and was flying at a height of 170 meters when the third aircraft notified the pilots of the fire in the engine.
The helicopter was completely destroyed in the blaze after its engine caught fire following the emergency landing outside the community of Beit Kama in the northern Negev desert. All 11 soldiers from the elite Shaldag commando unit, as well as the two pilots, escaped unhurt.
IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin appointed Col. A to lead the investigation into the crash in cooperation with Sikorsky, the helicopter’s manufacturer, which is owned by Lockheed Martin.
According to the military, the investigation found that the accident was the result of a technical failure causing the left engine relay to break, which lead to a fire.  In addition, it found that the IAF’s maintenance processes failed to detect the relay failure.
“In recent months, maintenance and extensive work has been carried out on the Air Force helicopter system in coordination with civilian companies and other militaries from around the world operating similar platforms,” the IAF said.
Norkin, who received the report into the incident, noted that it was “an unusual fault” and that every accident is preventable.
“First in the chain of events was the relay that fell apart. There are maintenance procedures that can be improved to enable early detection of defects and failures such as in this case,” the statement read.
Noting that the IAF “greatly appreciates” civilian companies for their cooperation over the years as well as in this investigation, the military said that, “there is an expectation that a product that arrives and is used by the IAF will be of the highest quality and meet control standards.”
In a statement provided to The Jerusalem Post, Sikorsky said the company “continues to work with the Israeli Air Force investigation authorities in respect to this incident. We will share any verified actionable information with the operating fleet.”
The IAF commander also noted that the tight maintenance policy set after the incident and the professional operations carried out by the technical personnel would enable the safe operation of the platform.
Norkin concluded that, “even with the malfunction, the operating of the helicopter by the crew in uncertain conditions, in the dark, with fighters inside the platform, was noteworthy and led to the saving of lives.”
In January, two weeks after the fleet of Yasur transport helicopters were https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/IAF-resumes-using-Sikorsky-helicopters-613949to return to operational duty, another made an emergency landing in the West Bank. There were 11 soldiers aboard the helicopter but there were no injuries reported in the incident outside the settlement of Ma’ale Amos near Tekoa.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the cause of the emergency landing was a “small” technical failure and that a team of technicians was dispatched to repair the fault. A few hours later, the Yasur returned safely to base.
First used by the IAF in 1969, Yasurs are the IAF’s primary helicopter used regularly to transport soldiers and equipment. They have taken part in a wide variety of missions, some secret, as well as search and rescue operations.
While the aging helicopters have been upgraded with new electronic systems and missile defense, the IAF is planning to replace the fleet by 2025 when the helicopters will be more than 50 years old.