The Canadian military has announced they are lifting the operational pause on the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter fleet, just over a month after a fatal crash in Greece that killed six service members.
The announcement follows a thorough risk assessment and a public revealing by the military of further details about what caused the helicopter to crash into the Ionian Sea during a NATO training exercise.
Using information that was recovered from the wreckage, the military was able to discover – primarily from the Cyclone’s flight data recorder – that during a complex maneuver, the flight director’s inputs conflicted with the aircraft’s autopilot settings. Military officials say that this caused the helicopter to respond in a way that the crew was not expecting, ceasing to respond to the pilot’s inputs.
“The investigative team has confirmed that this rare anomaly only occurred under a very specific and narrow set of circumstances,” reads a statement in a military press release. Officials said that their findings have led to mechanical failure being ruled out of the equation, however, the Directorate of Flight Safety is continuing to investigate.
The incident that occurred just off the coast of Greece, led the military to put an operational pause on using the Cyclone helicopter fleet as a precaution.
“I truly appreciate the professional efforts of the Canadian Armed Forces airworthiness authorities who have contributed to both the investigation and risk assessment. I have the fullest confidence in their work, the Cyclone fleet, and our ability to safely return the maritime helicopter community to flying operations. We will do so in memory of our fallen,” said Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, Commander Royal Canadian Air Force in a statement.
The remains of Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough and partial remains of Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, two of the six service members on board, have been recovered since the helicopter went down on April 29.
The four other Canadian Armed Forces members on board – Capt. Kevin Hagen, Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins – have yet to be found or identified.
Capt. Kevin had grown up on Vancouver Island, attending Lambrick Park Secondary in Saanich.
“It is critical to recognize that the investigation into the accident continues, and there is still a tremendous amount of work remaining to ensure we understand the exact circumstances that contributed to the incident. Because of this, while some information was shared with the Operational and Technical Airworthiness Authorities to facilitate the risk analysis process, details about the crash will remain privileged by the investigation until it is complete,” said Col. John Alexander, director of Flight Safety and Department of National Defence’s Airworthiness Investigative Authority.
Although an investigation continues, recovery efforts of the wreckage and the remains of service members have halted.
According to a press release, the military will be implementing updates to training in efforts to avoid similar risks in the future. In addition, aircrews will be receiving ground training to go through simulator scenarios that will allow them to practice identifying specific flight conditions and taking recovery actions.