Lumut helicopter crash: Pilots' errors may be linked to crash, says aviation expert [NSTTV]

KUALA LUMPUR: Miscommunication and miscalculation by the pilots during the manoeuvres may have resulted in a physical collision between the two helicopters participating in today's air formation performance training.

Universiti Kuala Lumpur's Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology head of aviation search and rescue department, Associate Professor Major Dr Mohd Harridon Mohamed Suffian, said, however, that an in-depth investigation was needed to confirm the reasons behind the incident.

Harridon said the collision involving the two helicopters had probably degraded the structural integrity of the helicopters which then affected their aerodynamic capabilities.

This, he added, led the helicopters to lose their altitude and crash.

"It is a norm during air formation that helicopters will fly in tandem or in parallel with each other at a certain spatial range and at a certain range of time to avoid any physical contact.

"It is also a norm for this to be practised for hours in order to gain effective parallel flying with minimal or zero incident.

"Communication is also a key ingredient for the helicopters to fly in parallel with each other where the communication is practised on the ground to parlay and share vital information such as the altitude of flight, rotation upon axis, timing of bank, bank angle, pitch angle and others.

"Any deviation from this information during flight would be catastrophic," he added.

A short video of the incident went viral earlier this morning, showing seven helicopters performing a flypast.

However, when they veered off in different directions, two helicopters heading towards the right approached each other and collided.

Harridon said it was also imperative to look at the technical aspects of the helicopters, particularly with regard to the control systems.

"Control freeze upon the control system of the helicopter would induce anomalies upon the flight trajectories of the helicopters as the cyclic, collective and throttle of the helicopter are deformed or under par in terms of its nominal flight operation and this subsequently may lead to unwanted incidents.

"The historical data of the maintenance of the helicopters should be scoured to pinpoint or unearth any anomalies of these helicopters.

"With this in hand, a comprehensive picture of the crash can be deduced," he said.

Harridon said representatives from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) could aid the investigation by providing vital information such as the nominal operational values of certain components and making intelligent judgments about whether these components were overutilised or within the allowable utilisation rate.

Earlier today, two Royal Malaysian Navy helicopters collided with each other causing the death of the 10 officers on board.

The helicopter, an Agusta Westland AW139 Maritime Operations Helicopter (HOM) and a Eurocopter Fennec had collided during a mid-air manoeuvre during a flypast training for the RMN's 90th anniversary celebrations.

Following the mid-air collision, the AW139 HOM helicopter crashed at the steps of the Navy Stadium while the Fennec crashed near the Navy Sports Complex pool.

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