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New safety concern grounds Army's Apaches again

A new problem with the Apache clutch assembly has grounded the helicopter again  

November 12, 1999
Web posted at: 9:20 p.m. EST (0220 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For the second time in a week, a safety concern has grounded the U.S. Army's entire fleet of Apache attack helicopters.

Last Friday it was a faulty drive-train part that put all 743 Apaches on the ground.

Now, it is a problem with the clutch assembly, in the helicopter's accessory gearbox, part of the transmission.

The Army says six U.S. Apaches have experienced clutch failures, all while the helicopters were on the ground.

But the Army says the crash of an Israeli Air Force Apache on June 1, which killed one crew member and seriously injured the other, was caused by a failure of both the primary and secondary clutches.

That has prompted the Army to order all of its top-of-the line helicopters out of the skies until it can review maintenance records to determine which ones have flown more than 1,000 hours without a clutch replacement.

Those helicopters will be grounded until the transmissions can be replaced. Other helicopters will be returned to service as soon as possible.

Already about 400 Apaches, more than half of the Army's fleet, are grounded for replacement of bearing assemblies that could cause the tail rotor to lose thrust.

Those repairs will cost more than $13 million and take 10 months or more.

The Army says it's not clear what is causing the clutch failures, except that the parts seem to be showing excessive wear.

Two Apaches crashed in April and May in Albania while training for possible use in Yugoslavia. In the May accident, two soldiers were killed when their helicopter went into a roll and hit the ground.

An Army spokesman said neither safety problem is believed to have been a factor in those crashes, but Army officials have yet to make public the findings of those investigations.

Sources tell CNN that the April accident in Albania was ruled a result of pilot error, and that the May crash was caused by a mechanical malfunction which sent a errant command to the helicopter's controls.

US Army returning some Apache helicopters to flight
U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters grounded for inspection

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