1-Feb-2023 Source: HeliHub.com
HeliHub.com can confirm that the Army Air Corps and the Royal Navy in the UK temporarily grounded the Leonardo AW159 Wildcat in the last 7-10 days, but essential flying has restarted.
The decision has been taken after a post-flight check identified a tail rotor gearbox ball race which had gone out of tolerance. This is monitored by the helicopter’s systems on startup and shutdown for each flight. If identified on startup, the mission is cancelled. A shutdown observation would put the aircraft AOG until it is sorted.
The fact that this situation had not been found before caused the grounding.
A temporary fleet-wide grounding was put into place while every airframe went through appropriate maintenance checks. The Royal Navy started to put their Wildcats back in the air early this week.
A spokesperson for manufacturer Leonardo said “We can confirm that there was a recent pause in flying of UK Wildcat fleets. This was due to the early detection of a potential issue in a single aircraft. Flying was paused while Leonardo engineers investigated the report. Essential operational flying is now being resumed.” We note the use of the word “essential”, which implies other operational flying has not restarted.
The UK Ministry of Defence statement provided to HeliHub.com said “‘Following a routine safety inspection, an issue was identified with a Wildcat Helicopter. Flying was paused while the matter was investigated, flying operations have now safely resumed.’”
However, other sources are telling us that the Army Air Corps have not yet recommenced flying the Wildcat as of today.