On April 29, 2020, the Cyclone Sikorsky CH-148 helicopter based on the Canadian frigate HMCS Fredericton crashed into the water while participating in a training exercise in the Ionian Sea between Italy and Greece. The helicopter was conducting a low-altitude high-speed maneuver and crashed within sight of the ship. The HMCS Fredericton had been deployed from Nova Scotia on January 20, 2020 to NATO’s Operation Reassurance. The Canadian and NATO forces’ search between April 29, 2020 to May 2, 2020 did not find any survivors, becoming a recovery effort May 3, 2020. All six crew members – four aircrew and two sailors – are known or presumed deceased.
The Cyclone Sikorsky CH-148 helicopters had a previous computer issue that caused a sudden loss of altitude. In a 2017 training mission off the coast of Nova Scotia, all three redundant flight control computers simultaneously failed, causing the aircraft to suddenly lose altitude. The pilot was able to land the helicopter, but the entire fleet was grounded for nine weeks. When the fleet returned to operations there were flight restrictions while the manufacturer (Sikorsky Aircraft) addressed software issues. The flight restrictions included avoiding low-altitude maneuvers in certain flight modes.There are concerns that the 2017 computer incident may be connected to the April 2020 crash. Similar to the sudden loss of altitude and low-altitude restrictions in 2017, it has been reported that on April 29, 2020 the Cyclone suddenly pitched forward into the ocean while conducting a low-altitude maneuver. The Cyclone that crashed had received computer upgrades following the 2017 incident. The entire Cyclone fleet is currently grounded while the crash is being investigated. A report of preliminary findings is expected in the coming weeks, but a full report is not expected until next year.
Wagners is currently looking into possible legal claims regarding the April 29, 2020 Cyclone Sikorsky CH-148 helicopter crash. If you have been affected, we invite you to contact Wagners to discuss your situation and possible legal options.