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Irish Police Defender 4000 "accident risk"

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Irish Police Defender 4000 "accident risk"

Old 26th Jul 2001, 13:24
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Post Irish Police Defender 4000 "accident risk"

From today's Irish Times:

Fatal accident fear led to Garda aircraft grounding

By Jim Cusack, Security Editor

Aviation consultants warned of a "serious or fatal accident" risk, leading to the grounding of the Garda Air Support Unit's (ASU) fixed-wing spotter aircraft, it emerged yesterday.

The consultants' report, part of a safety audit on the Air Corps whose pilots fly the Garda aircraft, led to the withdrawal earlier this year of the Defender 4000 aircraft, in service since September 1997.

The audit also recommended the runway at Baldonnel Aerodrome be upgraded as a matter of urgency as it was breaking apart. It noted the Air Corps recommended this work in 1993.

The safety audit was ordered by the Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, after the death of four crew members during a helicopter rescue operation in Waterford in July 1999.

The report is complimentary of the Air Corps' safety record and found it "well organised with an effective and well functioning chain of command". Air Corps pilots and technicians compared very well against the highest international standards.

However, it found a "longstanding problem" in relations between the Garda and Air Corps over the operation of the ASU. This could be a potential safety problem, it warned.

The report found that the Garda ASU's Defender 4000 aircraft would become highly unstable if one of its two engines failed, especially during takeoff. The aircraft "demonstrates extremely poor characteristics during single-engine operations", the report said. If airspeed fell because of a failure "the aircraft will uncontrollably enter into inverted flight from which recovery is not very likely, and probably impossible".

The three American consultants drew attention to a series of problems with the aircraft, including leakage of water and the failure of a rear sliding door.

The partial opening of the rear door during flights was a significant cause of concern.

It stated: "Crew members also tell us that the aircraft's rear sliding door partially opens during flight. Since the outside air entering the aircraft may be well below freezing, crew members have been known to depart their seats to place blankets or other objects in the opening to prevent cabin heat loss. In doing this, the crew member is at great risk of falling out of the aircraft should the door open." The consultants made 16 recommendations for urgent work on the aircraft.

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Old 26th Jul 2001, 15:26
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When I saw the title I thought it was a Land Rover you were speaking of. This report is a bit of a blow to the Garda.
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Old 1st Aug 2001, 19:44
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The manufacturer replies.....

Irish Times 1st Aug.

The manufacturer of the Garda's Defender 4000 aircraft, criticised in a study commissioned by the Department of Defence, has strongly rejected the claims and are threatening to sue the authors of the report.

B-N Group, in the Isle of Wight, said there were up to 1,200 Defender and Islander series aircraft in service in more than 100 countries, and the aircraft had an outstanding safety record with a reputation for "safe and forgiving handling characteristics".

The Defender 4000 bought by the Garda has been at the centre of a dispute between the Garda and the Air Corps. There has been a failure to reconcile differences and establish rules for working arrangements.

The report by three US consultants hired by the Department of Defence to carry out a safety audit of the Air Corps fleet drew attention to the Defender 4000, which was bought by the Garda in 1997 and has been out of operation since March this year. The consultants claimed it had "poor characteristics" and that it would become unstable if one of its two engines failed.

B-N said there was no evidence in the report to support this view.

"This is an unbelievably inaccurate, misleading and emotive statement. Of course, if you abuse any aircraft in flight you run the risk of getting into a dangerous attitude. However, the important fact here is that all aircraft have to demonstrate compliance with a set of airworthiness and safety regulations as part of the process to achieve Type Approval before they can be put into service.

"With regard to the Defender 4000's handling with one of its two engines inoperative, Britten-Norman (now B-N Group Ltd) volunteered to comply with the very latest airworthiness standards set by the European Joint Airworthiness Authority (JAA) applicable to this category of aircraft, the Joint Aviation Regulations (JAR) part 23.

"Compliance with this standard was demonstrated by good margins. JAA membership extends to approaching 30 European countries, including Ireland and the United Kingdom.

"The JAR codes issued by the JAA are derived by leading experts in their fields, and the requirements are very closely aligned to those of the Americans. Therefore questioning the safety standards of an aircraft that has demonstrated compliance with these latest safety requirements is questioning the safety standards adopted by the JAA and USA and applied to all aircraft in the category.

"Furthermore, compliance with this latest standard has been reaffirmed by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority and was checked by an independent Test Pilot employed by the Irish Authorities."

B-N also took issue with the consultants' reference to a sliding rear door, pointing out that the Garda had specified that its aircraft have such a door which could be opened during flight.

It said: "We offer such a door and the Garda, our customer, specified this item for their Defender. When we fit this door, it is associated with a safety harness system for crew in the vicinity of the door. The door is lockable in a range of positions from fully closed to fully open.

"If when the door is closed and locked the door seals leak, then this is either a matter of maintenance, or failing that, reference to the factory for rectification action. Such leaks may well be an irritation but they are not a safety hazard."

B-N also said that a reference in an Irish Times report of July 26th referring to the deaths of four Air Corps crew members during a search-and-rescue mission in Waterford in July last year could be construed as suggesting a Defender 4000 aircraft was involved. The Defender was in no way involved in this accident, which resulted from pilot error during the flight of a Dauphin helicopter.

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Old 1st Aug 2001, 21:50
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There is a bit more on this on the Iriah Aviation Bulletin Board at http://www.irishaviation.net/forums/...ML/000848.html
It would appear that there is a bit of a conflict between the Gardai and the Air Corps over the Garda Flying unit.
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