Navy Helicopter Has Checkered Safety Record

Navy Helicopter Has Checkered Safety Record
January 20th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Navy Helicopter Has Checkered Safety Record

Navy Helicopter Has Checkered Safety Record
Houston Chronicle
January 19, 2008 By Christopher Sherman, Associated Press
McALLEN, Texas The type of Navy helicopter that crashed near Corpus Christi Wednesday, killing three crew members and injuring one, has a checkered safety history that makes it the Navy's most accident-prone helicopter.
Investigations to determine what caused the MH-53E Sea Dragon from Naval Air Station Corpus Christi to crash in a muddy field could take months, but a check of the helicopter's accident history, referred to by the Naval Safety Center as "mishaps," shows the work-horse helicopter has accidents more than twice as often as the Navy's other helicopters.
Since the Navy began flying Sea Dragons in 1984, 27 people, including Wednesday's victims, have died in crashes, according to the Naval Safety Center. Its rate of serious mishaps more than $1 million in damage or a fatality per 100,000 flight hours is 5.96. The average for Navy helicopters since 1980 is 2.26.
The Navy's Sea Dragons and the similar Super Stallion flown by the Marines were grounded after fatal crashes in 1996 and 2000 that pointed to a faulty swashplate duplex bearing assembly in the main rotor. The 1996 Super Stallion crash that killed four members of a test flight crew at the helicopter's manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft was also attributed to the part.
Three months after an Aug. 10, 2000, crash of a Sea Dragon in the Gulf of Mexico off Corpus Christi that killed four crew members, the helicopters were put back into service with improved swashplate duplex bearings and new bearing warning systems. The warning system immediately alerts the crew that the bearing was deteriorating and that the rotors could seize up.
A Navy spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. David Nunnally, said by e-mail that after the manufacturer corrected the bearing design problem and installed the warning system, "The aircraft were then returned to flight and there have been no further issues."
In 2001, the subcontractor that made the bearing assembly for Sikorsky, Kaydon Corp., pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the 1996 crash and agreed to pay $7.5 million in criminal fines and civil damages. An investigation of that crash had concluded that the bearing assembly on the main rotor seized, causing a catastrophic failure.
Kaydon denied responsibility in the crash but admitted that employees faked tests on the same type of part blamed in the crash but not the actual one in the destroyed helicopter.
The Sea Dragon is the Navy's largest helicopter and is used as a mine sweeper. The Marines' version is used to transport troops and equipment.
The Navy's most deadly Sea Dragon crash occurred July 18, 1988 when eight service members were killed when their helicopter crashed into the Pacific Ocean off San Francisco.
Wednesday's crash occurred a few miles south of Corpus Christi in sparsely populated farmland. The wrecked helicopter lay at the base of a 1,000-foot television transmission tower, whose owner said it had been struck by the helicopter. The area had been surrounded by dense fog the night of the crash.
The Navy identified the dead crewmen late Friday as Lt. Joshua Gross, 30, from Alameda, Calif., and Aviation Warfare Systems Operators Second Class Alexander LeMarr, 25, of Parker, Colo. and David Davison, 22, of Guthrie, Okla.
On Friday, the condition of the injured crewmember was upgraded from critical to fair, said hospital spokeswoman Sherry Carr-Deer.

Similar Topics
Navy Helicopter Crashes Near Corpus Christi
Navy, Environmentalists Await Sonar Ruling
Jones Aims To Rename Dept. Of The Navy
Navy Stands By Plan To Put Landing Field In North Carolina
A Whistle-Blower's Story: He Feels Navy Did Him Wrong For Doing Right