Boeing anticipates delivering 34 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters this year, nearly 30% less than planned, due to the US Army's refusing delivery of aircraft in February after a critical safety issue was found.

The US Army discovered that the AH-64's strap pack mega-nuts, which connects its rotorhead to the airframe and keeps the blades from spinning off during flight, might corrode to the point where they crack under stress after being subject to severe weather and salt in coastal areas.

Boeing has replaced about 25 percent of the strap pack mega-nuts to date in the US Army’s fleet and anticipates it won’t be until sometime in 2020 when all aircraft in the worldwide fleet have had the replacement. In the meantime, the company has added failsafe collars to the entire US Army fleet and about 50 percent of the international fleet, said Steve Wade, vice president for Boeing’s attack helicopter programs, at Association of the US Army conference in Washington DC on 9 October.

“In case of the failure of a nut, the failsafe collar holds it on,” he says. “So it allows you plenty of time to make a safe landing.”

AH-64E Apache

Boeing AH-64E Apache Credit: Boeing

The US Army operates 749 AH-64 Apaches, with another 429 operated by other countries, according to Boeing.

Because of the US Army’s refusal of deliveries Boeing only delivered six Apaches in the first quarter, six in the second, none in the third quarter, and is on track to deliver 22 in the fourth quarter. The company will likely make up lost ground by next year, says Wade.

“It’s been a challenging year for Boeing in the Apache programme,” he says. “I think today we can stand in front of you and say we are in a really good place. The customer is regaining confidence.”