The US Army has grounded its entire fleet of heavy-lifting Chinook helicopters due to a “small number” of engine fires in some helicopters, Army officials told The Wall Street Journal.
Army officials became aware of engine fires in an isolated batch of helicopters in recent days, army officials told The Wall Street Journal, adding that none of the incidents resulted in injuries. Approximately 70 of the Army’s roughly 400 CH-47F and CH-47D Chinooks contained a part suspected of instigating the fires, but U.S. Army Materiel Command grounded the entire fleet “out of an abundance of caution.”
“The safety of our soldiers is the Army’s top priority, and we will ensure our aircraft remain safe and airworthy,” an Army spokesperson told the WSJ.
She added that “an isolated number of helicopters” experienced fuel leaks, leading to “a small number of engine fires,” and that the Army is attending to the problem.
Grounding the fleet could have operational consequences for Army disaster relief operations and and medical evacuations, Reuters reported.
The Boeing Co.-made aircraft at risk use Honeywell engines. Honeywell said in a statement that the company collaborated with the Army to determine that certain engine components, O-rings, installed during a routine maintenance operation did not meet Honeywell’s specifications.
“The U.S. Army and Honeywell were able to validate that none of the questionable O-rings originated or were part of any Honeywell production or Honeywell-overhauled engines,” the statement read.
Honeywell is working to find replacement parts for the Chinooks, according to the company. Honeywell did not name the company producing the O-rings.
Chinook helicopters have served as a staple in the Army since the Vietnam war, transporting large numbers of troops and supplies. The standard CH-47D model can carry up to three dozen personnel, has a range of 400 miles and can travel at speeds up to 184 mph, according to Military.com.
The Netherlands, Canada, the UK, India, Australia and Italy all employ the Chinook in their militaries, with about 1200 in operation worldwide as of 2020, according to Army Technology. After news of the grounding spread, the Indian Air Force sought further information from Boeing but has kept its fleet of at least 15 helicopters operational, India’s The Economic Times reported.
In July, the Air Force grounded its fleet of F-35 fighter jets over an issue with the ejection seats, Bloomberg reported. Up to 6% of the U.S. military’s F-35 warplanes remain grounded at any given time due to inability to sustain Pratt & Whitney-made engines, according to the Government Accountability Office.
U.S. Army headquarters did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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