29 Juli 2012

Bell 212 Helicopters Grounded During Investigation

29 Juli 2012

RBAF Bell 212 helicopter (photo : Planes and Choppers)

Following the recent tragedy that shocked the nation, the Ministry of Defence stated that the remaining fleet of Bell 212 helicopters used by the military's First Squadron will be temporarily grounded.

Explaining the move to the Sunday Bulletin yesterday, the Deputy Minister of Defence, Dato Paduka Awang Haji Mustappa bin Haji Sirat, said the eight medium-sized choppers have ceased operations "since day one" after the incident that took the lives of a dozen young men and women just over a week ago on July 20, 2012.

The helicopters, said Dato Paduka Awang Haji Mustappa, will not be utilised "until we establish the findings" of the special investigations jointly conducted and supported by international investigators from the United States and Canada to ascertain the cause of the tragedy that unfolded in the Ulu Belait area.

Should there be a need, the fleet of four Blackhawk S-70A choppers under the Fourth Squadron of the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) will be mobilised.

Last year, the Ministry of Defence signed a contract with US-based Sikorsky for the acquisition of a total of 12 Blackhawk S-70i helicopters in the country's bid to replace the ageing fleet of Bell 212s that has served the RBAirF for 39 years since the helicopters were first introduced to Brunei's Defence in September of 1973.

The first delivery of the anticipated and more powerful fleet is expected over a two-year period starting from next year at a total cost of approximately US$325 million.

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