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Most RCAF Cyclone helicopters undergoing repairs after cracks discovered

·2 min read
The Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone, a militarized version of the S-92 helicopter, is shown at 12 Wing Shearwater, near Halifax. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)
The Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone, a militarized version of the S-92 helicopter, is shown at 12 Wing Shearwater, near Halifax. (Brett Ruskin/CBC - image credit)

Nearly all of the Royal Canadian Air Force's Maritime fleet of CH-148 Cyclone helicopters are undergoing repairs after cracks were found in the tails of the aircraft.

"12 Wing Shearwater, which encompasses the entire fleet, is prioritizing the order of repair to maximize return to serviceability for each aircraft," according to a Department of National Defence statement to CBC News on Saturday.

After the cracks were found on one of the Sikorsky-made helicopters during routine maintenance on Nov. 26, other aircraft in the squadron were inspected and cracks were found in three more, according to the statement.

On Sunday, CBC News requested clarification on the number of helicopters affected and where they were based.

The RCAF replied that, in fact, 19 of its total fleet of 23 CH-148 aircraft were found to have the cracking problem. Two were found to have no cracking and the remaining two are in long-term maintenance and have not yet been inspected.

The department declined to say how recently two unaffected aircraft entered service, or where they are located, for "reasons of operational security."

While the entire fleet is encompassed within 12 Wing Shearwater, 17 of the aircraft are based in Nova Scotia and six in Pat Bay, B.C., to support the Royal Canadian Navy's Pacific fleet.

Sikorsky is working with the RCAF to make repairs, according to the department. RCAF experts estimate that the repairs to some of the aircraft will be completed in "the next few days."

Impact on B.C. flood-relief operations

The issue with the Cyclones has had some impact on flood-relief operations in B.C., where helicopters from 443 Squadron, operating from their base at Patricia Bay, were supposed to provide support, the statement said. It said other air assets have been able to fill the gap instead.

No one from the Department of National Defence was available for comment on Sunday.

The CH-148 Cyclone, based on the Sikorsky S-92 civilian helicopter, has been the subject of scrutiny in the past over the procurement process and cost, as well as manufacturing and software issues.

The aircraft took more than a decade to enter service, and its cost soared from an original budget of $3.2 billion to $5.7 billion.

In April 2020, six crew members on board a CH-148 died when their aircraft plunged into the Ionian Sea off Greece as it was returning to HMCS Fredericton after a flypast.

In March 2009, a Sikorsky S-92, operated by Cougar Helicopters, lost oil pressure and crashed in the frigid waters off Newfoundland, killing 17 passengers and crew.

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