The strange case of the AW139 tailboom that came off

AW139 tailboom.jpg

That’s “came off” in the sense that nobody quite knows how. Allhappened a few days ago to a Gulf Helicopters machine at Doha, Qatar.Most importantly the tailboom departed during the taxi for take-off,which is obviously very odd but infinitely better than it happeninghalf an hour later. The AW139 tailboom has history which may or may notturn out to be relevant. AgustaWestland on the case but apparently notclear themselves what caused this. And much Pprune discussion here.

Full-size picture, airworthiness directive, and AgustaWestland note to operators below.  The aircraft

AW139 broken boom.JPG

Airworthiness directive key text:

Some operators of AB/AW139 helicopters have reported finding debonding of

fuselage tail boom panels. This condition, if not detected and corrected, could

lead to the structural collapse of the tail boom installation, resulting in loss of

control of the helicopter.

For the reason described above, this AD requires repetitive inspections of the

tail boom assembly and, in case signs of debonding are detected, the reporting

of findings to the design approval (type certificate) holder of the helicopter, and

the accomplishment of corrective actions.

AgustaWestland letter text:

Somma Lombardo, Italy

August 26th, 2009

AgustaWestland Statement

To: All Customers and Operators of AW139 Helicopter Model

All AgustaWestland Authorized Service Centres for the AW139

Helicopter Model

Subject: AW139 Tailboom Damage Occurrence

Dear Customer,

The purpose of this Letter is to inform You that on August 25th, 2009 an AW139

aircraft had an occurrence resulting in major damage to the aircraft tail boom while ground


There were no injuries to the crew or passengers.

AgustaWestland has immediately dispatched a technical team to inspect the aircraft and

assist the event investigation.

No similar occurrence has taken place with any other AW139.

AgustaWestland has been notified by the Customer that the rest of its fleet is continuing


AgustaWestland wish to remind You the importance of strictly applying the inspection

procedures for the tail boom area prescribed in the applicable AW139 Maintenance


AgustaWestland will keep all AW139 Customers and Operators informed of any follow‐on

information that may emerge.

Sincerely Yours,

Marco Sala


Vice President

Customer Support & Services ‐ Italy

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10 Responses to The strange case of the AW139 tailboom that came off

  1. Filipe Quino August 29, 2009 at 3:33 pm #

    Just to shed some light over the subject, this particular aircraft had a “tail strike” sometime before, causing damage to the tail.
    Subsequent consequences appear to be self-explanatory.

  2. me September 6, 2009 at 1:50 am #

    YES the comment is true. Take a close look at the trailing edge fairing, the stripes don’t follow through onto it due to replacement after it hit the ground prior to this.

  3. James Poothara February 23, 2010 at 5:39 am #

    Well, if the preflight inspections, and adherence to the maintenance manual schedules were properly met, this incident would not have taken place. I believe AW139 is still the best machine available in the market. thanks.

  4. captain sabo sambo October 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Accidents do occur whenever you put man and machine, it is verry interesting that somehow,even the manufacturer of the Agusta 139 helicopter have no clue as to the exact cause of the failure of the Tailboom in Doha.
    To complicate matters,someone is trying to attribute the accident to an earlier accident of tailstrike.
    Even if the helicopter has crashed before and suffered severe damage, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer and indeed operator to make sure a proper certified repair is carried out before putting the helicopter back in service,rather Agusta decided to put the helicopter back in service hurriedly, obviously to protect there market and the end result could have been loss of lives and agony to the families, had thes particular Helicopter taken off prior to the accident.
    these is a serious design flaw and has to be looked at by Agusta and all operators of the 139.

  5. Kieran Daly April 7, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    Very interesting if that comment is true. But I’m curious about your source for that? Are you involved in AW139 ops?

  6. Interested April 7, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    Who did the inspection\repair after strike ?? 7 what about the others which have been found before total failure ??

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