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.
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.