Canadian Armed Forces says cause, cost of Cyclone helicopter collision still unknown
Members of resupply ship Asterix and HMCS Regina' conduct a training exercise with BRONCO, the repaired CH-148 Cyclone helicopter that was damaged during Operation Projection in the Pacific Ocean. (Corporal Stuart Evans/BORDEN Imaging Services)
More than seven months after a brand new Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter suffered a hard landing on its first deployment to the Pacific, the Department of National Defence remains in the dark about the cause and cost of the collision.
The incident happened on the afternoon of Feb. 18 while the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone helicopter was accompanying the frigate HMCS Regina and resupply ship Asterix near the start of the naval group’s six-month deployment from Vancouver Island to the Asia-Pacific region.
Months later, however, an investigation report into the collision still hasn’t been filed, “so the official cause of the incident is not yet known,” according to Capt. Leah Campbell, spokesperson for the Canadian Joint Operations Command.
Damage and diversion to Guam
The Victoria-based Cyclone was conducting wind-envelope testing – determining the aircraft’s takeoff and landing limits aboard the Asterix – when the helicopter slammed into the ship’s deck, sending the Cyclone’s main rotor blades hard into its tail.
“Thankfully there were no serious injuries reported to Canadian Armed Forces or civilian personnel during the incident,” a Defence department spokesperson told CTV News.
The vessels were more than 1,300 kilometres west of Hawaii at the time and the Regina’s repair detachment determined the damage was too extensive to be fixed at sea.
The Regina and the Asterix, with the damaged helo aboard, were diverted to Guam, sailing into port eight days later to begin the repairs.
For two and a half weeks, crews worked around the clock to replace the Cyclone’s tailpiece, main rotor blades and landing gear, leaving the chopper and its air crew out of service for 25 days before flight trials could be completed.
Cost of repairs, delays unknown
The total cost of the repairs and mission delays, likewise, remains a mystery, though the accident pushed back a port visit to Singapore “by several days,” Campbell said in an email to CTV News on Wednesday evening.
A Defence department spokesperson confirmed the investigation into the Cyclone’s crash landing is “ongoing” and, once complete, will “ensure that our personnel can continue to have complete confidence in our equipment and procedures.”
In the meantime, Canada’s fleet of 14 Cyclones continues to fly missions on both coasts since the aircraft’s first deployment with the Royal Canadian Air Force in July 2018.