Ottawa on hook for software program glitch that induced lethal army helicopter crash

A still-unresolved software program drawback recognized as the primary reason for a lethal army helicopter crash off the coast of Greece in 2020 will find yourself being fastened on Ottawa’s dime — at a yet-to-be-determined price and time.

The Defence Division and U.S.-based Sikorsky Plane say they’ve agreed on a plan to repair the autopilot drawback that enables the CH-148 Cyclone’s laptop to override the controls of its human pilots in sure conditions.

However practically three years after the glitch resulted in a Cyclone plunging into the Ionian Sea, killing all six Canadian Armed Forces members on board, it nonetheless stays unclear when that answer might be carried out.

“Now that the technical necessities have been agreed upon by all events, Sikorsky and its subcontractors have proposed an preliminary implementation plan for Canada’s overview,” Defence Division spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande mentioned in an e-mail.

“Discussions on this plan are ongoing, so it’s too early to debate price and schedule. We hope to have the plan finalized within the coming months, and can present extra particulars at the moment.”

One factor that has been finalized, nonetheless, is that Canada will foot the invoice.

Lamirande mentioned the deliberate software program upgrades fall outdoors the scope of the federal government’s present $9-billion contract with Sikorsky for the supply and upkeep of 28 Cyclones, which was signed in 2004.

“We’re dedicated to constantly enhancing the protection of our fleets and those that function and fly in them,” she mentioned.

Sikorsky spokesman John Dorrian mentioned the corporate, which has but to ship all 28 Cyclones practically 20 years after the unique contracts have been signed, is now ready for a brand new contract for the work.

“Following a contract award from DND, Sikorsky will full improvement, flight take a look at and add of the enhancements to the CH-148 fleet,” Dorrian mentioned in an e-mail.

The federal authorities has confronted requires urgency since two inner army evaluations recognized the autopilot glitch as the first reason for the lethal Cyclone crash on April 29, 2020.

The tragedy took the lives of Grasp Cpl. Matthew Cousins, Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, Capt. Kevin Hagen, Capt. Brenden MacDonald, Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin and Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke. It additionally shook the nation throughout among the darkest days of the pandemic.

Army commanders have repeatedly instructed the issue isn’t critical, saying the Royal Canadian Air Power has developed protocols and procedures to keep away from a repeat of that tragedy by coaching pilots to keep away from sure manoeuvres.

“I’m very assured that we’re working inside that side, inside a secure regime,” Air Power commander Lt.-Gen. Eric Kenny mentioned in a latest interview. “In any other case they wouldn’t be flying the plane.”

Quite a lot of Cyclones have been deployed abroad on Canadian warships in recent times, the place they’re primarily used for search-and-rescue missions, surveillance and anti-submarine missions. Kenny mentioned the helicopters have excelled.

But there have been issues, together with the invention of tail cracks on practically the entire of the fleet on account of a design flaw. Sikorsky has agreed to cowl the price of these repairs, however they’ve but to be carried out.

The 26 Cyclones which have been delivered by Sikorsky to this point don’t have all of the capabilities that the American firm initially promised to incorporate.

Former Sea King squadron commander Larry McWha described the Cyclone fleet’s autopilot challenge as a critical software program design flaw or “gremlin” given the doubtless lethal penalties.

The very fact the federal government is protecting the invoice for the autopilot repair suggests Ottawa is taking no less than partial accountability “for having specified, examined and authorised the unique design and management legal guidelines that led to the tragic lack of an plane and crew,” he added.

—Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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