Newspaper article The Canadian Press

TSB Report Warns Owners of Eurocopter of Engine Flame-Out in Cold Weather

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

TSB Report Warns Owners of Eurocopter of Engine Flame-Out in Cold Weather

Article excerpt

Report warns of engine flame-out for choppers

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VANCOUVER - An investigation into a deadly crash involving an RCMP helicopter near Vancouver two years ago has prompted the Transportation Safety board to warn that more than 500 similar aircraft across the country are at an increased risk when taking off in cold weather.

The board's report notes procedures for clearing water, snow and ice from the aircraft's engine system weren't followed, despite more than a decade of warnings from the manufacturer, and the board says it's concerned other pilots may not fully understand the risks or be following the proper procedures to mitigate them.

The safety board released a report Wednesday into a January 2012 crash on Department of Natural Defence land at Cultus Lake, about 100 kilometres southeast of Vancouver. The pilot died.

The Eurocopter AS 350 was in the area conducting training exercises in light snow, with temperatures around -10 C. Heavy snow covered the aircraft during a lunch break.

Exercises were cancelled for the rest of the day and the pilot lifted off to return to Vancouver's airport.

"Soon afterward, there was a muffled bang and a puff of grey/white vapour from the exhaust area," the report says.

"At the same time, the customary and familiar sounds from the engine rapidly disappeared, and the regular slapping sound of the rotor blades quieted significantly."

The helicopter fell rapidly and hit the ground nose-first, fatally injuring the pilot, who was described as "highly experienced and competent."

The investigation determined water, snow and ice had built up in the helicopter's engine air intake system, in part because protective covers were not installed when the aircraft was left outside in the snow. When the pilot prepared for take off, the system wasn't properly inspected and the buildup wasn't cleared.

France-based Eurocopter and its predecessor, Aerospatiale, issued warnings as far back as 1985 that even small amounts of water can cause the engine to flame-out, particularly after take off. …

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