A South African Air Force Agusta A109 light utility helicopter has made what the military calls an “emergency landing” near Ballito on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast while assisting the police and Business Against Crime in conducting an assessment of crime high risk areas and in the identification of accurate navigation coordinates in and around Durban. The incident occurred about lunch-time today.
“The SANDF [South African National Defence Force] is currently deployed in all provinces in support of the SAPS [SA Police Service] in Operation Duty Calls. The operation is aimed at supporting the SAPS in combating crime over the festive period which began on December 1 and ends on January 28,” the Department of Defence says in a statement.
“During the flight, the pilot lost control of the helicopter and had to execute an emergency landing. There were no serious injuries reported, but the commander of the aircraft and a civilian were taken to the Ballito Hospital for observation.” The rotorcraft was carrying a crew of two and two passengers.
“The cause of the emergency landing will be determined by a Board of Inquiry that will also assess the extent of the damage to the helicopter.”Initial reports indicate that the crew and passengers only sustained light injuries, but the aircraft may have been seriously damage. A witness has said that a possible reason for the crash was the failure of the tail rotor and that the pilot did well to land the aircraft without serious injury.
This is the second loss of a SAAF A109 helicopter in three weeks. Last month a A109 was involved in a hard landing near Potchefstroom in the Northwest Province, causing severe damage. By good fortune the crew were not seriously injured.
An A109 was lost with its three crew members in May 2009 when it crashed into the Woodstock Dam while en route to a mountain flying exercise.
The Italian-designed A109 has served the SAAF for just over five years. The first of 30 aircraft was delivered to the SAAF on October 19, 2005. The rotorcraft, acquired under Project Flange, cost R2.451 billion, according to Treasury figures.
The A109 replaced the Sud Aviation (later Aerospatiale, Eurocopter) Alouette III in the command-and-control, casevac, trooping and cargo-slinging role.