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Monday November 8, 1999

Army Inspecting Apache Helicopters

WASHINGTON ( AP ) - The Army said Monday it will inspect all 743 of its Apache attack helicopters and temporarily ground those found to have a type of tail rotor bearing that is believed to have caused an Apache crash early this year.

The bearings will be replaced and the Apaches will be returned to duty, spokesman Jim Stueve said. An unknown number of Apaches have a newer kind of tail rotor bearing that will not need to be replaced.
No Apaches will fly until the inspections are completed this week, Stueve said.
The Apache, made by Boeing, is the Army's best attack helicopter and is deployed both in the United States and abroad.
The decision to inspect the full fleet was made when the Army recently determined that the bearing was the cause of an Apache crash last January at Fort Rucker, Ala., in which the helicopter was destroyed and the two-man crew suffered minor injuries, Stueve said.
Investigators determined that a heating process used by Boeing to make the bearing assembly extra hard led to stress corrosion fractures in the bearing.


News Update

Tuesday November 9, 1999

U.S. "Apaches" return to skies, many stay grounded


WASHINGTON ( Reuters + Pentagon comments ) - The U.S. Army is returning dozens of Apache attack helicopters to flight after a major stand-down for inspection of suspect rotor bearings, but half of the fleet of 743 could take months to repair, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
Pentagon spokesman P.J. Crowley and Army officials said between 300 and 400 of the Army's best attack helicopters, built by Boeing Co., would remain grounded at least briefly and some of them for perhaps nine months while awaiting replacement bearing assemblies.
The decision to inspect the entire fleet of AH-64s was made on Friday night after an investigation found that cracks in an older tail rotor bearing caused a January AH-64 crash in Alabama.
Some Apaches could be out of service for eight or nine months while awaiting a replacement part, Army Col. Ed Veiga told Reuters. But he said many were already resuming operations in key areas such as South Korea and Kosovo after brief inspections found they were using a newer model of the bearing.
``Something in the area of 400 aircraft will need to have this hangar-bearing assembly replaced,'' Crowley said at a Pentagon briefing.
``Clearly, there will be impacts here back in the States in terms of their operational tempo, their training,'' he said, adding that the repair program would cost about $13.5 million.
``They are being quickly returned to service in the operational theaters,'' Veiga told Reuters, but added that Boeing would have to increase production of replacements for the older part for any Apaches that must remain grounded until they are fixed.

SIX CRASHES IN A YEAR

Six Apaches have crashed this year, including two during training in Albania before the NATO air campaign in Kosovo. But the Army said the suspect part had nothing to do with the crashes in Albania.
Jim Stueve, another Army spokesman, said only four of the service's 71 Apaches in South Korea were found to have the suspect part and the rest were quickly cleared for routine flight.
Of the 16 now being used by U.S. military peacekeepers in Kosovo, four were found to have suspect bearings and two of those were quickly repaired, Veiga said.
He said Lucas Aerospace, a division of Boeing, was being asked to produce the part at an accelerated rate, but that speeding up the process ``could take 60 to 90 days in a worst-case scenario''.
It could take as long as eight to nine months to get a full supply of new bearing assemblies on hand and resume flying the whole fleet of Apaches, Veiga added.
The inspections were ordered after it was determined that the suspect part caused an Apache crash last January at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in which the helicopter was destroyed and the two-man crew suffered minor injuries.
Army officials said investigators found that a heating process used by Boeing to make the bearing assembly extra hard led to stress corrosion fractures in the bearing.


Wednesday November 10, 1999

Army Grounds Attack Helicopters


WASHINGTON ( AP ) - Many of the Army's 743 Apache attack helicopters will be grounded for up to 10 months to replace tail rotor bearings blamed in a crash early this year, the Pentagon says.
Apaches used in Bosnia, Kosovo, South Korea and other high-priority operations will get fixed first; others will have to await a restarting of the bearing production line, officials said Tuesday.
When the Army disclosed Friday that it would inspect the full fleet of Apaches to determine which carried the defective bearing assemblies, it did not indicate the grounded copters would be out of action for an extended period. It said it anticipated ``no problems with readiness'' in the fleet.
Asked for additional details Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman P.J. Crowley said nearly all 743 Apaches had been inspected and that about 400 will require bearing replacements. He said it will take eight to 10 months to get all the aircraft back in operation. And because there are too few spare bearings in Army stocks to complete the work, the manufacturer will have to restart production.
Crowley said it could take as long as three months for first deliveries of the new-production bearings.
``We will have substantial numbers of these helicopters that will not fly for the next three months or so as they accelerate the production of these replacement bearing assemblies,'' Crowley said.
The Apache, made by Boeing Co., is the Army's best attack helicopter.
The replacement work is expected to cost about $13.5 million, the spokesman said.
The decision to inspect the full fleet was made when the Army recently determined that the bearing was the cause of an Apache crash in January at Fort Rucker, Ala., in which the helicopter was destroyed and the two-man crew suffered minor injuries. Investigators determined that a heating process used by Boeing to make the bearing assembly extra hard led to stress corrosion fractures in the bearing.
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