The UK Royal Air Force has deployed a Board of Inquiry team to Iraq to investigate the cause of a Eurocopter/Westland Puma HC1 transport helicopter crash near Baghdad on 20 November. Two personnel were killed and another two seriously injured, according to a Ministry of Defence statement, which adds: “It is too early to speculate on the cause”.

The accident represents the fourth crash involving an RAF Puma since April, when two of the aircraft also came down near Baghdad, killing two personnel. Another two people died when a 33 Sqn aircraft crashed near Catterick in Yorkshire on 8 August. The unit is based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, which is also home to the service’s fleet of AgustaWestland EH101 Merlin HC3/3A transports.

 RAF Puma
© Baron Inchcape/AirSpace

An ongoing study is investigating the possibility of upgrading 35 of the UK’s Pumas to an enhanced HC2 standard to remain in use until 2022, although the recent spate of accidents could potentially influence the MoD’s decision on whether to retain the type. The unit in early 2007 had a total of nine Pumas operating in Iraq.