Now, CBC News has learned the details of what the government has agreed to forego in order to conclude a long-awaited new deal with Sikorsky, and it includes a formerly mandatory safety measure: a 30-minute run-dry standard for its main gear box.
The importance of the ability to fly for 30 minutes after a loss of lubrication in the main gear box was reinforced by an investigation into a deadly 2009 crash of a Sikorsky-built helicopter.
The gearbox is a kind of linkage between the helicopters engines and its rotor system. It's packed with lubricating oil that cools the gears and keeps power flowing to the rotors. If a helicopter loses oil in its main gearbox, the system will get too hot and either seize up or otherwise fail. That would lead to a loss of power in the rotor, forcing a helicopter from the sky.
A helicopter that meets the run-dry standard can continue flying for 30 minutes even if there's no oil in the main gear box — a critical feature for helicopters flying hundreds of kilometres out to sea.
As a result, the Transportation Safety Board recommended revisiting the 30 minute gearbox run-dry requirement that this model of helicopter was exempted from under an "extremely remote" chance provision in the regulations because the chances are apparently somewhat less than extremely remote.
I suspect that if the CH-148 has been exempted from this requirement this late in the game, it probably has not been able to demonstrate that it can meet it and likely won't ever. I wonder what the paperwork looks like around that toxic nugget!
A few things to keep in mind. First, naval helicopters fly from ships that may be sailing thousands (not hundreds) of kilometres from shore. If a helicopter gets in trouble, it could be a long way from its ship, the sea conditions could be bad, it could be a combat situation, and so on, any of which makes a timely rescue difficult to impossible. Second, military aircraft, unlike civilian ones, are regularly flown right to the edge of their performance envelope (and sometimes beyond), placing additional stress on airframe components. It doesn't take an engineer to tell you that this both increases the likelihood of failure and the need for robust safety systems and criteria.
There's no excuse for this. Like the single engine F-35, it isn't a question of if crashes will happen, but when. I hope the Cons aren't using the near 50% loss rate (incl. 37 deaths) of their ancestral (Diefenbaker) government's purchase CF-104s as an acceptibility benchmark.
It's cowardice and utterly criminal not to cancel a program that fails to meet safety standards set by fatal experience. Aircrew will pay with their lives for the Cons inability to eat their error. Should we be surprised? People, workers, military members, it doesn't matter: everyone is expendable to them if it is politically expedient.
Collective sociopathy, if there is such a thing. He's a little off, but this guy has a point.