Further details have been revealed about the incident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last month when an Oryx helicopter suffered damage whilst preparing for take-off.
The South African Air Force (SAAF) Oryx helicopter, deployed to the DRC as part of the MONUSCO peacekeeping mission, suffered damaged to its nose on Saturday July 18 whilst taxiing on the ground at Goma airport in the eastern DRC at 14:45.
Spokesperson for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, told defenceWeb that the incident occurred while taxiing onto the runway “for a roll off take-off.”
“The junction between the taxi(way) and runway, which is under construction, forms a step of about 10 cm high,” Mabanga explained. “The co-pilot took power (of about) 9.5 degrees on the collective and pulled back on the cyclic to tilt the disc backwards to get over this step.”
The collective lever, situated to the left of the pilot’s seat, is used to increase main rotor blade pitch and therefore generate lift. The cyclic stick, located between the pilot’s legs, changes the pitch angle of each rotor blade individually. The result is to tilt the rotor disk in a particular direction, resulting in the helicopter moving in that direction. In this case, the result would be to lift the nose of the helicopter.
On reaching the step in the runway, the nose wheel made contact with the step and collapsed beneath the aircraft, leaving the helicopter nose down on the taxiway.
“The front wheel and actuator jack was broken and there was visual damage to the front bottom of aircraft which includes damage to the structure and other internal components,” was how Mabanga described the damage.
None of the fifteen crew and passengers on board the helicopter, serial 1209 (UNO 827), were injured.
The SANDF is still investigating the possibility of fixing the Oryx at Goma and then flying it back to South Africa, but this will depend on the level of structural damage to the aircraft and the flight controls.
A Board of Inquiry (BOI) will be convened to investigate the incident.
The SAAF operates a number of Oryx medium transport helicopters and three Rooivalk attack helicopters on behalf of the UN in the DRC. They form part of the aviation unit of MONUSCO and its Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi’s soldiers are all part of the United Nations (UN) intervention brigade to bring the various rebel groups operating in the east of the DRC under control.