52 Black Hawk helicopters grounded after fatal crash

01/02/2020 09:18 PM
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A Black Hawk helicopter seen at Songshan Air Force base
A Black Hawk helicopter seen at Songshan Air Force base

Taipei, Jan. 2 (CNA) Taiwan has grounded 52 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters after the nation's chief of general staff and seven other officers were killed when a military Black Hawk helicopter crashed in a mountainous region in the north of the country Thursday.

The Air Force has grounded the 14 Black Hawk helicopters in its fleet and the Army its fleet of 30 for inspections of dynamic, radar and control systems, as well as fuselage structure, a military spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the National Airborne Service Corps (NASC) said it has suspended training operations with its eight UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.

Chief of General Staff Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴) was among eight officers who died when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed in New Taipei's Wulai District en route to a military base in Dong'ao, Yilan County Thursday, as part of a pre-Lunar New Year visit to troops.

The incident was the second involving Black Hawk helicopters in Taiwan after a chopper dispatched by the NASC on a medical mission crashed near Orchid Island off the southeastern coast of Taiwan in February 2018, killing six people on board.

Taiwan purchased a total of 60 Black Hawk helicopters from the U.S. in 2010 at a cost of NT$84.67 billion (US$2.82 billion), with 30 designated for the Army, 15 for the NASC (including the one that crashed off Orchid Island in 2018) and 15 for the Air Force Rescue Group (including the one that crashed Thursday).

Currently the NASC has taken delivery of nine, while another six will be delivered in August 2020.

The Army officially commissioned its UH-60M Black Hawk combat team in December 2017 after verifying the helicopter fleet's initial combat capability.

The UH-60 Black Hawk is a twin turbo-shaft engine, single rotor helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. It is a medium utility/attack helicopter developed from the S-70 helicopter.

The Black Hawk is perfect for disaster rescue, emergency response, medical assistance, observation, patrol and transportation at high altitudes and at sea. It can carry 15 people (including 2 pilots, 2 crew chiefs and 2 rescue specialists) and 4 stretchers.

It is also capable of carrying 1,170kg of cargo in the cabin or hoisting 4,050kg under its belly. When used for firefighting it carries up to 2,400 liters of water.

The helicopter is perfect for rescue mission at altitudes above 2,000m or at sea at nighttime. Its best feature is nighttime reconnaissance.

The crash Thursday was the latest in a total of 332 aviation accidents involving Black Hawk helicopters around the world since 1979, after the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter in Minnesota on Dec. 5, 2019 resulted in three fatalities, according to Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a researcher at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research.

(By Matt Yu, Huang Li-yun and Evelyn Kao)

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