SAAF A109 down in Free State – no deaths
An SA Air Force (SAAF) Agusta A109 light utility helicopter has crashed in the Free State while on a night training flight. The rotary-winged aircraft was on the inventory of 87 Helicopter Flying School at AFB Bloemspruit. The SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) corporate communications directorate had not responded to a defenceWeb enquiry at the time of publishing but reports have it the helicopter crashed on the farm Umpukane in the Clocolan area. The three crew members aboard were reportedly taken to Clocolan Hospital and later moved to 3 Military Hospital in Bloemfontein by another helicopter, presumably also from the flying school. It is known that two of those aboard the helicopter have since been discharged and the third is expected to be discharged during the course of today. As is the case with all SAAF aircraft incidents and crashes, a board of inquiry will be appointed.
Another of the Italian designed helicopters, this one assigned to 19 Squadron at AFB Hoedspruit, crashed in the Kruger National Park three years ago killing all five aboard. The accident was primarily due to pilot error. Since entering service with the South African Air Force the A109, purchased to replace the Alouette III, has experienced several crashes and incidents. Three crew members were killed in May 2009 when their helicopter crashed into Woodstock Dam, near Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal. A further two helicopters were damaged in November and December 2010, fortunately with no loss of live. The Woodstock Dam incident was ruled to be due to pilot error while the 2010 incidents were due to tail rotor failure and a broken swash plate control rod. The technical problems were subsequently fixed. A total of 30 A109s were delivered from 2005 under Project Flange and an option for another ten was not exercised. The most recent crash leaves 25 airframes in service.