Autopilot issues contributing to a Navy helicopter crash that killed six people: Investigation

Ottawa-Military investigations revealed that autopilot issues played a major role in the fatal crash of a cyclone helicopter off the coast of Greece last year.

When the pilot guided the Navy helicopter into a tight turn, the built-in autopilot took control and sent the aircraft into the Ionian Sea, killing all six on board. The process was carried out, even though the pilots did not receive training or cockpit indicators to warn how the automated system would react in that “very special” situation, the Pentagon said in a release. It was.

The crash of Stalker 22 on April 29, 2020, It has caused the worst daily life loss for Canadian troops since the killing of six soldiers in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan on July 4, 2007.

It One of the helicopters suddenly fell hundreds of feet during a test flight in 2017, recording a third incident involving a cyclone due to defective software. Another incident “hard landed” on the ship in February 2019.

After the 2017 incident, helicopters were subject to some restrictions after banning crew members from performing certain operations.

The report includes the need to fill gaps in the flight training manual, the need to modify flight control software, and the need to establish a working group to identify operational requirements for the complex turning operations of the CH-148 cyclone. The recommendations are listed.

Cyclones are typically deployed on Canadian frigate ships for search and rescue, surveillance, and anti-submarine warfare.

Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Ensign. Abigail Cowbrow, Captain Kevin Hagen, Captain Brenden McDonald, Captain Maxim Milon Morin, Ensign. Matthew Pike died in a crash near their ship, HMCS Fredericton.

According to the report, aircraft certification exceeded the autopilot “instantaneously” or more when the pilot was making a tight turn to land on the flight deck in a “final complex” operation. It did not include testing what would happen if.

The helicopter autopilot, or “flight director,” was not intended to be overridden for a long period of time, the report said, “regularly” overriding the system without the pilot manually pressing a button on the control stick. Nevertheless, it shows that it is called cyclic.

Software issues were the main cause, but not the only one, Brig.-Gen said. John Alexander, Director of Flight Safety for the Royal Canadian Air Force, who produced the report.

“This accident was not the result of a single causal factor, but the result of several combinations and could have happened to other crew members on other days,” he said in a statement.

Flying publications contained information that could be “confusing or misleading.” The report states that it contains an “incomplete” section on automation and lacks a description of the operations that are essential for field use.

“Before the accident, the autopilot’s response was unknown to manufacturers, airworthiness authorities, and crew,” Alexander said.

His report comes from the Canadian Armed Forces Investigation Commission and follows the one obtained by the Canadian press, which made six recommendations. Five involved better training for pilots to recognize potential problems that could occur if the pilot disabled autopilot.

We also recommended creating a special cockpit signal that pilots could use to warn each other about overriding the flight director over time. However, that proposal has not been shared in a recent analysis by the Flight Safety Agency.

According to the new report, pilots need to be well trained to disengage autopilot by pressing one button on the control stick almost instantly if the control device does not provide the required response. However, research has shown that automatically disabling the autopilot can pose its own risk in some situations, especially if the pilot believes the autopilot will continue to function.

Instead, the report argues that the software and its “accumulation of these biases” need to be addressed by Sikorsky Aircraft, which is based in Connecticut, a 100-year-old manufacturer of cyclones.

Continuous awakening is another recommendation.

“Crew members need to prevent complacency by staying mentally engaged in flight operations and adopt standardized operating procedures,” Alexander said in a summary of the report, saying that “ineffective” crew members He said resource management contributed to the crash.

“The investigation could not identify why the crew did not disconnect (flight director) during the accident operation, as during the initial (return to target) operation.”

Maj. Gen. Eric Kenny said the Air Force has begun to implement the recommendations and is “fully confident in the state-of-the-art capabilities of the aircraft and the people who fly and maintain them daily.”

A stone monument was announced on the first anniversary of the crash, with six black granite monuments standing at the entrance to Nova Scotia’s Canadian Force Base Sheawater.

Christopher Reynolds

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