Crash sets back EH101 tests

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WESTLAND HAS delayed further test flying of the EH Industries (Agusta/Westland) EH101 following the loss of naval prototype PP4.

The aircraft crashed on 7 April during a test flight from Westland's Yeovil site in the UK. All four crew (two pilots and two test engineers) parachuted safely from the stricken aircraft.

The timing of the incident is embarrassing for the company, which had recently gained an order for 22 utility EH101s from the UK Ministry of Defence after a fierce competition.

Although Westland says that it is too early to be certain of the cause of the crash, suspicion is focusing on a dynamic-component problem.

Eye witnesses reported that ,as the EH101 descended, the aircraft was rotating. This implies that either there was either no, or uncommanded, tail-rotor authority.

The aircraft was at around 12,000ft (3,600m) when the incident began. Three of the crew left the EH101 at about 10,000ft, while the pilot only bailed out at 1,200ft, having first tried to ensure that the helicopter would crash in clear ground.

Aircraft PP4 was one of two fitted with the Turbom‚ca/Rolls-Royce RTM322 engines.