ADF's MRH-90 (photo : Australian DoD)
Eurocopter is confident it has identified the issue that caused a ‘catastrophic’ engine failure to an Australian Defence Force (ADF) MRH90 multirole helicopter in April.Speaking at an EADS pre-Farnborough Airshow briefing in London on 17 July, Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling revealed that in addition to the engine failure that resulted in the grounding of the MRH90 fleet, three other engines on the production run had experienced related problems on aircraft outside Australia.
An investigation was launched after the 20 April incident, which saw the helicopter lose one of its two Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322-01/9 engines about 30 minutes north-east of Adelaide. The aircraft was able to return to Royal Australian Air Force base Edinburgh without further incident.
At the time of writing, the MRH90 fleet was entering its fourth month of grounding.
Bertling said the root causes of the failure had now been determined and related to pilots following the wrong procedure for a hot start. ‘We know now precisely the sequence that the engines have seen it their history – all the engines had seen an improper procedure for a hot start. In all cases the improper procedure was done in the same way and if you do so then you see damage to bearings and seals in the engine,’ Bertling said.
He added that now the sequence that leads to engine damage was known, the aircraft that had not been through the incorrect procedure had been cleared as safe to fly. ‘All engines that have seen the procedure will be removed from the aircraft and inspected – if there is an issue or not. And I need to say that of the engines that have had a wrong hot start procedure it is only a very small percentage that have had damage to them.’
Eurocopter has developed a software patch that will make it impossible for pilots to follow the sequence that led to the engine damage.
Meanwhile, Bertling confirmed that the company plans to spend EURO3.6 billion in the next five years on new products, new services and for the extension of the company’s international network. The company plans to fly one new helicopter, major upgrade or technology demonstrator every year, following the first flight of the EC-175 in 2009.