Task and Purpose, Jared Keller
Security, North America
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The Army has ordered aviation techs to widen their search for a broken part that can send Apache helicopter rotors catastrophically ripping loose mid-flight, according to documents obtained by Task & Purpose, a terrifying defect that has resulted in recent deadly Apache mishaps.
In April, Defense News reported the Pentagon ceased accepting deliveries of the AH-64E ‘Echo’ Apache months earlier due to a “critical” safety issue over the copter’s strap pack nut, the component that keeps the rotor blades from separating from the airframe. But a February Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) guidance goes even further by explicitly expanding new inspections from Army aircraft flown in “severe coastal” areas to include “all AH-64 aircraft, regardless of location.”
The Safety of Flight guidance, dated February 18 and framed as an addendum to earlier inspection guidelines issued on October 23, 2017, also lays out new pre- and post-flight inspection routines. But many Apache pilots believe the Army is recklessly passing on this risk to its aircrews without actually fixing the systemic problem.
“The Army is continuing to fly the fleet of AH-64s, accepting the risk, knowing the issue, and using increased inspections and distilled water rinses to mitigate the risk,” one Apache aviator, who asked for anonymity out of concern for their career, told Task & Purpose. “The pilots aren’t a fan of that tactic.”
The threat of corrosion is a constant enemy of airframe integrity for aviators operating in coastal areas. Indeed, the failure of the strap pack nut was responsible for the in-flight rotor separation and crash of an Apache AH-64D in Galveston, Texas on December 28, 2016, killing both soldiers on board. The Pentagon’s halting of Apache Echo variants in April triggered yet another update to the guidance regarding inspections.