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US Army mothballs idea of surplus helicopter sell-off

THE US ARMY, conscious of the storm it has created by releasing surplus helicopters on to the civil market, is to put all this year's expected surplus into long-term storage at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona.

Industry leaders, who are already involved with the US Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense (DoD) in discussions on the problem, have also called for a moratorium on sales of surplus military machines until the dilemma has been solved.

The Army's Col. Glenn Monrad says: "I anticipate that we will have 200 Bell UH-1s [surplus] this year and 600 next. This year, all will go to Davis Monthan, with the exception of a few stripped-down fuselages which are of no further use."

Helicopter manufacturers have been attacking the Army and the DoD for supplying surplus helicopters to public services such as local police departments at very low prices, thus cutting the chances for sales of new machines.

They also charge that many of these surplus machines have ended up in the hands of organisations, which are not capable of maintaining and operating them safely.

Chief product attorney at Textron Bell Helicopter, Jim Burt, says: "They are too cheap and, therefore, they are cheaply maintained, using surplus, bogus or salvaged parts, and are cheaply operated, with poorly paid, overworked, under-qualified pilots."

"Skip" Scipioni, programme manager for the Model 250 at Allison Engines, says that the DoD should "...stop the distribution now". He wants a committee, representing the DoD and the industry, to be formed to "...set a policy and then seek legislation to correct the current problem".

Garlick Helicopters, which has received an FAA type certificate for the conversion of UH-1s to civil-certification standards, says that it is willing to bear some of the product liability, as Bell suggests, but not all of it.

Ron Garlick, its president, says: "We are willing to accept responsibility for what we've done. We did not design the aircraft originally; we did not manufacture the aircraft. If there's a design defect in it, we can't assume responsibility for it."

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