Black Hawk down: Air Force chief grounds choppers after near disaster

The fleet will be grounded until the completion of an investigation.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israeli Gen. Amikam Norkin, head of the Air Force, said that he’s grounding Black Hawk helicopters from training and transport on Monday.

Norkin made his decision in light of a number of incidents over the last few months, including one in which a Black Hawk loaded with soldiers was about to take off when one of its engines shut down.

The Air Force will carry out a technical inspection of the fleet to determine the causes of the issues. The fleet will remain grounded – outside of operational use – until the investigation is completed.

One incident in particular nearly ended in disaster. In early July, a Black Hawk carrying IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi suffered an engine failure. In order to deal with the issue, the pilots, against procedure, shut down the only working engine. The chopper sank to just 100 feet off the ground before the pilots managed to re-enagage the motors. The helicopter landed without further incident.

The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk is a four-blade, twin-engine, medium-lift helicopter. The helicopter entered service in the U.S. military in 1979. It was made famous in the book, and later film, Black Hawk Down about a 1993 raid in Mogadishu that went wrong.

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In Israel it’s referred to as Yanshouf or (“owl”).

Israel has had trouble recently with its aging fleet of heavy-lift helicopters. In Nov. 2019, it grounded its Yasur helicopters after one of them caught fire. The transport helicopter first came into service in 1969 in Israel.

The Yasur is a Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion. Israel is looking to replace that fleet, but hasn’t yet settled on a replacement. It’s looking at the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s Ch-47F Chinook.