That AW139 tailboom failure – emergency AD from EASA

AW139 broken boom.JPG

Remember the mystery – rather a frightening mystery actually – of the AgustaWestland AW139 tailboom that suddenly collapsed during taxi last week? Well it’s still a mystery and EASA has put out an emergency airworthiness directive based on an earlier AgustaWestland service bulletin.



It requires “detailed” inspections of the “tail panels” within 25 flight hours or 30 days and then repetitive inspections every 50 flight hours.

But on seven aircraft identified by serial number (31006, 31020, 31022, 31042, 31136, 31157 and 31248) the initial inspection has to be done within five hours. I don’t immediately know what the significance of those seven aircraft is or what the common factor is. Update: it’s suggested to me that all of them have previously suffered tailstrikes.

From Flight’s rather neat Helicas databaseit seems the gang of seven are currently being operated all over theplace: one in Abu Dhabi, two in the Gulf of Mexico, one in Scotland,one in Norway, one in Japan, and one with the Pakistan Army. And theywere built anything from five years to five months ago. Anyone know theconnection?

EASA says the reason for all this is as follows:”During the taxiing phase the tailboom of an AW139 helicopter bent andcollapsed. The root cause of this accident is still unknown and underinvestigation.

“Evidence of debonding had been previouslyreported on some tailboom panels of AB/AW139 helicopters. thereforeEASA AD 2008-0157 required repetitive inspections of the tailboomassembly and, in case of debonding detection, the accomplishment ofcorrective actions.”

So this year that’s the Sikorsky S-92,Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma, and AW139 that have suffered sudden andcatastrophic mechanical failures. Welcome to the ever-interesting worldof rotary flight.

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3 Responses to That AW139 tailboom failure – emergency AD from EASA

  1. AR September 16, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    According to the two Agusta Westland “Bollettino Tecnico” referenced in the AD (available on Agusta’s website, http://www.agustawestland.com/system/files/139-193.pdf and http://www.agustawestland.com/system/files/139-194.pdf) the one bulletin (139-193) affects only aircraft that have been involved in tailstrikes, tail bumps, or tail scrapes. However, the other bulletin (139-194) affects many many more serial numbers (probably the remainder of the civil fleet).

  2. Anthergar January 22, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    All AW139 helicopter are affecting by EASA EMERGENCY AIRWORTHINESS DIRECTIVE AD No.: 2009-0234-E R1 in Europe.

  3. andy toomer July 16, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    This is unbelievable, lucky it didn’t happen during flight!

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