SAAF A109 Light Utility Helicopter crashes


The South African Air Force (SAAF) has lost an A109 Light Utility Helicopter in a crash in Pretoria that injured both crewmembers on board.

The aircraft came down near the Zwartkop Golf Estate in Centurion this (Thursday) afternoon at around 13:40, landing in the veld next to houses. It sustained serious damage in the crash and is most likely a writeoff.

According to Best Care Ambulance Services spokesperson Xander Loubser, paramedics received a call about a military helicopter that had crashed and discovered the two personnel on board were seriously injured. They were treated on the scene before being airlifted by an Oryx helicopter to Unitas hospital. One crewmember is apparently in critical condition.

The aircraft, registration 4006, was on its way from Nasrec south of Johannesburg to Air Force Base Swartkop in Pretoria for refueling when the accident occurred. It had been practicing for the Rand Show that opens tomorrow. A109s were due to carry flags and take part in the South African National Defence Force’s capability demonstration.

Darren Olivier, director at African Defence Review, notes that A109 4006 is the instrumented aircraft flown by the Test Flight and Development Centre in the Western Cape for systems testing.

Although it’s not yet clear what caused the incident, the location and type of impact indicate mechanical failure, either of the engine, gearbox or tail rotor, but it is too soon to say with any certainty what caused the crash.

The SANDF said in a statement that the cause of the accident is still unknown and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Team together with the Accident Recovery Units have been deployed to the scene for further investigation.

The SAAF has lost a number of A109s to crashes. On 12 May 2009, an A109 crashed into Woodstock Dam, near Bergville in Kwazulu-Natal. All three crewmembers on board died. It is believed the crash was caused by pilot error as the helicopter was flying low over water, which tends to reflect the sky.

Five people on board an A109 in the Kruger National Park were killed on 30 March 2013 when it crashed into the ground during night-time anti-poaching operations. Pilot error is believed to have been the cause of this crash, but mechanical problems have dogged the A109. Two hard landings in November and December 2010 resulted in the type being briefly grounded. The 2010 incidents were due to tail rotor failure and a broken swash plate control rod. In 2012 the Air Force said that all A109 problems had subsequently been identified and rectified and the aircraft were flying normally.

The A109 was purchased to replace the elderly Eurocopter SA-316/SA-319 Alouette III helicopters, which had been in service since 1962 in the light utility role. Delivery of the 30 A109 helicopters purchased from the Anglo-Italian AgustaWestland helicopter company under the R2.4 billion Project Flange commenced on October 19, 2005. Deliveries were beset with delays and difficulties and an option for a further ten was not exercised.