(The workhorse of the RMAF for a very long time now. Image source: http://alo3drv.blogspot.com/2010/04/projek-nuri.html)
I may not be in the Air Force or flown in one (I have sat in the pilot’s seat once) but I have read enough into military equipment to say that LKS is shooting at the wrong target (read also Kuda Ranggi who is sharing LKS’s angle).
LKS said this in his blog:-
It is a very serious reflection of the shocking state of morale in the air force when Nuri pilots are living in literal fear of flying the helicopter.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak reiterated yesterday that the Nuris were airworthy “workhorses” of the armed forces in transportation and operations. However, when asked whether he had flown on the Nuri, Najib said he had done so earlier but now used a special VIP aircraft. Can Najib produce the log of the number of times he had used the Nuri each year since he became Defence Minister in December 1999, and the number of times VVIPs had used the Nuri helicopters in recent years and their identities.
If the Defence Minister and VVIPs are steering clear of the Nuri, with Nuri pilots like Azlan living in fear of flying the helicopter, is it right to risk the lives of air force personnel in the continued use of Nuri helicopters?
I really wonder why LKS is targeting Najib here unless he knows something that we don’t but not obliging enough to put it up in the post. If given a choice, why waste fuel loading VVIPs in a big Nuri (which was designed for heavy load duty) when it is easier, cost effective and perhaps safer (VVIP lah) to use newer helicopters (although Super Puma is also a heavy duty helicopter but that is not the point).
LKS say Nuri pilots are living in literal fear of flying the helicopter. I agree that it is a tragedy to lose the nation’s warriors in such crashes and it will be hard on the nation and their families but the question is, is the Nuri helicopters really too dangerous to use?
It is understating statement for a helicopter which is widely used around the world and in most of the search and rescue operations. The Nuri or Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King is the workhorse of many Air Forces around the world including US and UK (the other is of course C130 Hercules which started service even earlier). The fact that it is being use to ferry the President of US shows how trustworthy the helicopter is.
The issue that should have been forwarded by LKS is not whether Nuri is a “dangerous” helicopter but instead LKS should have focused on:-
1. Whether the country need re-look into the age of military equipment (not just Nuri) and start changing for newer ones?
2. Whether the right procedure has been followed (for example instruction to fly despite the problem with the helicopter) and the quality of maintenance of the military equipment is up to mark? Read the maintenance related Sea King crash story here, here and here
3. Whether there were any lapses in the last upgrade exercise of Nuri helicopters (did inferior parts used for the upgrade or improper service made)?
4. Whether there is need for another upgrade exercise for the old military equipment (with proper qualifications of course)?
5. There have been Nuri crashes before this – so, what was the contributory factor of those crashes? What was action taken to curtail future crashes? Did anyone slept on the recommendations?
So, uncle Lim, there are more relevant questions to be asked than harping on the how dangerous the helicopter is and how some VVIP been seen avoiding a ride in it. That is not the point because by design, the Sea King has a good track record but when it comes to maintenance, upgrading and even flying them, the best equipment in the hands of human can be disastrous or fatal.
The investigation into the tragedy will take time and until then, we will never know what caused the crash – human factor or the hardware. So, given the history of the helicopter around the world, I won’t be too quick to pin point it to the helicopter (not yet) until the official investigation is out.