18 Agustus 2010
ADF's MRH-90 medium helicopter (photo : Australian DoD)
AUSTRALIAN Aerospace says it is on schedule to deliver seven MRH-90 helicopters to the Australian Defence Force before the end of the year.
The delivery will bring to 16 the total number of new choppers the army will have in its inventory.
The ADF has resumed flying the MRH-90 choppers after one of the new aircraft suffered an engine failure in one of its two engines.
The incident in May, north of Adelaide, forced a temporary grounding of the $4 billion fleet.
Initially the cause of the problem was attributed to an “improper engine start procedure”.
But this was later rejected by the defence department, which blamed the fault on a “compressor blade fracture”.
A second in-flight incident near Mackay involved damage from an unspecified “foreign object” which lodged in the chopper's engine during a training flight, company CEO Jens Goennemann said.
The aircraft was able to fly on one engine before landing safely, after which the defective engine was replaced, Mr Goennemann said.
“We have engineering challenges but have never reached a point where we didn't know how to tackle them,” he told reporters yesterday.
The company is on schedule to deliver seven state-of- the-art European-designed helicopters to the army this year in line with contract specifications.
“It's a huge program and we are on schedule and I think it is fair to say there is a gap between what has been perceived about the program and how well we are doing.
“MRH Number 11 (which suffered engine failure) and the MRH fleet is flying again after the engine manufacturer Rolls Royce and Turbomeca working with the ADF identified the root cause (of the engine problem) and the delivery, testing and training program of the MRH-90 has resumed,” the Australian Aerospace chief said.
He confirmed a new heavy-duty aluminium floor was also being fitted to Australian models after complaints the existing decking was too weak.
Defence is buying 46 of the hi-tech choppers, most of which are going to the army which is replacing its ageing US Black Hawk helicopter fleet.
The MRH-90 in service or on order by 14 other countries differs in design from traditional military helicopters by its use of composites rather than metal in its construction.