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Errors led to fatal Afghan helicopter crash: report

Feb. 6, 2013, Ottawa - Insufficient training and inadequate oversight were among the factors that led to a fatal military helicopter crash that killed two Canadian soldiers and a British soldier in Afghanistan in July 2009, a National Defence investigation has found.


February 6, 2013
By Post News

Topics

On July 6, 2009, two CH-146 Griffon helicopters were deployed to
ferry passengers to a forward operating base from Kandahar Airfield and
back again.

According to the Defence Department’s findings, which were released
on Wednesday, when the second Griffon tried to take off from the forward
operating base to make the return trip, a large dustball developed,
impeding the pilot’s view.

A few seconds later, the helicopter took off and started drifting forward and to the right, at which point it struck a barrier.

The aircraft, which had four crew members and two passengers on board, rolled onto its side and immediately caught fire.

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Master Cpl. Paul Audet, 38, Cpl. Martin Joannette, 25, and a British
soldier were killed when they were unable to escape the burning Griffon.
Both Audet and Joannette were based in Valcartier, Quebec.

The National Defence investigation found “the aircraft weight
exceeded limits, the crew did not complete pre-flight performance
calculations and they attempted the takeoff without knowing the
helicopter’s available power.”

But the report indicated these problems were symptoms of larger
issues related to the decision to deploy Griffons to Afghanistan.

“The deployment of…the CH-146 provided crucial support for our ground
forces and the missions flown by our crews ultimately saved lives,” the
report reads. “However, that is not to say that we, as an organization,
deployed the CH-146 without error.”

The report found the Griffons were used in missions for which they
were not designed and for which proper safety measures were not adopted
through 2008 and 2009.

It also found that when problems were discovered by pilots and other
crew members, they were not adequately recorded and reported, and higher
authorities did not provide adequate oversight and planning support
after the decision to deploy the helicopters was taken.

Meanwhile, Griffon pilots were also not properly trained to handle
the Afghan environment, particularly when it came to dealing with dust
and other impediments to vision.

The report recommends a number of measures to prevent such an
incident in the future, including better training for Canadian Forces
helicopter pilots and upgrades to the Griffons to handle decreased
visibility.

It also recommends better planning on what equipment to use during major deployments in the future.


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