An investigative team recently submitted its findings to the commander of the Israel Air Force (IAF) Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin surrounding the circumstances of an Apache helicopter crash in August 2017.
The report confirms the findings of a preliminary investigation carried out in the immediate aftermath of the crash at the Ramon Air Base in southern Israel that claimed the life of Maj. David (Dudi) Zohar, 43, from Haifa.
The initial investigation suggested that the helicopter crew spotted a technical malfunction in the helicopter’s steering ability, which prevented a sudden landing in mid-flight, and therefore required the crew to return to perform an emergency landing at the base.
The joint fact-finding mission also consisted of experts from Boeing, the US military and civil experts. The Zohar family has been informed of the findings.
The investigation revealed that the crash was caused by the fact that the joystick was not properly installed. As the pilots attempted to resolve the issue, the joystick became increasingly loose until it eventually detached from the Apache completely.
It was also noted in the report that the failure caused the plane to suddenly thrust left, depriving the flight crew of any control over the tail rotor.
Due to the rarity of such a malfunction, the investigative teams had difficulty in ascertaining the precise reason for the crash.
Reacting to the findings, instruction for installing the joystick of helicopters were updated and components of the Apache helicopters will now be based on the findings of the investigation and incorporated into the IAF's technical layout.
In addition, a new training program has been devised for helicopter air crews which was shelved in the wake of the crash but became operational a month later.
After receiving the report, Norkin ordered that new measures be taken to improve the training process and qualitative maintenance of technicians for the helicopters’ joysticks and general systems.
Moreover, Norkin ordered that improvements be made in the training of air crews, with particular emphasis on emergency operations. He also instructed that a program designed to enable pilots to cope with extreme flight conditions and to examine a series of technological flight safety developments be instated.
Norkin pointed out that the response of the crew, despite the complex conditions, significantly contributed to the success of the medical treatment that Zohar’s co-pilot immediately received. The co-pilot returned to operations two weeks ago.
According to the Head of the IAF Safety and Quality Assurance Administration, the joystick of the helicopter wes replaced prior to the crash.
He too emphasized that Zohar’s decision to return to the base to perform the landing despite the difficult circumstances likely saved the co-pilot’s life.
“The crash happened 45 minutes after the two took off for a training flight in the south,” Col. Yoav said. “The detachment of the joystick is comparable to a drive in a car, when there’s a fault with the steering wheel and the car can only turn left and not right.
“The crew was forced for 6 minutes, from the moment it realized that there was a malfunction until the crash, to contend with high physical pressure in an extreme situation, and despite that they managed to bring the helicopter back to the base,” he concluded.