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Safety Concerns with Coast Guard Helicopters

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Safety Concerns with Coast Guard Helicopters

Icelandic Coast Guard helicopter

Photo: Páll Kjartansson.

An MUH-1 military helicopter involved in a fatal accident in South Korea on July 17 has the same gearbox as two Airbus Super Puma helicopters the Icelandic Coast Guard has agreed to lease, Vísir reports.

Faults in such gear boxes have previously caused two fatal accidents, in Scotland in 2009 and in Norway in 2016. In all three accidents the helicopter rotor separated from the body. Airbus had stated they had since ensured the safety of the helicopters, but an investigation into the 2016 accident in Norway concluded a redesign of the gearboxes was necessary.

After Fréttablaðið reported on the July accident, the Icelandic Coast Guard told the news provider they had received information from Airbus that the cause of the accident was unrelated to the incidents in Scotland and Norway. “According to information that the Coast Guard has from Airbus and others it seems to not be the same occurrence as in previous accidents associated with gearbox failures,” Ásgeir Erlendsson, the Coast Guard’s public relations officer, stated at the time.

When Fréttablaðið followed up with Airbus Helicopers, the company stated they had not provided the Coast Guard with any confidential information. “I can confirm that we have not shared any confidential information with the Icelandic Coast Guard regarding possible causes of the MUH-1 accident, as the investigation is still under the leadership of Korean authorities,” stated Guillaume Steuer, Head of External Communications at Airbus.

Fréttablaðið requested a copy of the Coast Guard’s communication with Airbus on the matter. The request was initially denied. The Coast Guard eventually sent the news provider a copy of a response from an Airbus employee to an inquiry from the agency. The answer from Airbus details some of the damage to the helicopter, but makes no conclusions about the cause of the accident. The Coast Guard insisted, however, that the incident appears unrelated to previous accidents associated with gearbox failure. A preliminary report of the accident is expected this month.

The Coast Guard had stated their contract to lease the two helicopters is not binding and they are still able to back out. They have denied Fréttablaðið’s request to see the contract, citing information privacy laws.

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