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Germany calls a halt to NH90 flights over safety fears

Germany has slapped a self-imposed temporary grounding order on its army’s fleet of NH Industries (NHI) NH90 helicopters following the discovery of a “design flaw” with the aircraft’s electrical system.

Berlin says that all routine flights of its 10.6t rotorcraft have been “temporarily suspended” after Airbus Helicopters, which assembles the German troop transport helicopters at its Donauwörth facility, identified a fault with the NH90’s overhead control panel.

The airframer’s recommendation follows a 19 June incident involving a TTH variant in Termez, Uzbekistan when the helicopter (TGEA18) was forced to make an emergency landing after an engine failure and subsequent shutdown of a large number of its electrical systems.

Germany’s defence ministry says the “design flaw” can cause a potential electrical short circuit when the engine fire extinguishing system is used.

This led the flight safety board of the ministry’s aviation authority to recommend temporarily suspending routine flights with the NH90 over flight-safety concerns while the manufacturer develops a fix.

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Airbus Helicopters

However, Airbus Helicopters insists that the restriction is not required and that the helicopter is safe to fly: “Industry has assessed there is no short-term airworthiness issue and therefore recommends to continue flights. NHI is launching a modification in order to improve [the] design.”

It says that NHI contacted all operators on 9 February, advising them of the issue and its recommendation.

Airbus Helicopters is the largest shareholder in the NHI consortium, followed by AgustaWestland of Italy and Fokker of the Netherlands.

Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database records the German army as operating a total of 37 NH90s, with a further 26 on order.

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