Germany grounds NH90 helos

Germany has stopped routine flying operations with its troubled NH90 helicopters, the German Bundeswehr announced on Friday 6 February. An investigation into an incident that happened last year in Uzbekistan, has led to the decision.

The investigation by Airbus Helicopters found a design flaw in an Overhead Control Panel (OHCP) in the NH90’s cockpit, where a fire suppression switch for the engines could cause a short circuit. Subsequently, the Bundeswehr flight safety authority recommended all routine NH90 operations to be halted, a decision that is now supported by Berlin.

On 19 June 2014, a German NH90 got into big troubles in Uzbekistan as one of its engines exploded during a medical evacuation flight, causing the German Army (Heeresflieger) to already temporary ground the fleet back then. Four NH90TTHs deployed to Afghanistan already in April 2013 to provide a Forward Air Medical Evacuation in Mazar-i-Sharif but were met with additional operational problems in the hot-and-high operations as well. Apart from the big incident, aviators reported issues with other systems as well.

Germany has about forty NH90 helicopters at its disposal. The Bundeswehr now says it expects Airbus Helicopters to come up with a solution as quickly as possible. Berlin confirmed in December it had 80 NH90TTHs on firm order (including the forty delivered) and was still opting for another 22.

© 2015 editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger

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A German NH90 in the field. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A German NH90 in the field. (Image © Dennis Spronk)