Sea Dragon

The US Navy has issued a new corrective action directive (AFB-346) to the CH-53E and MH-53E heavy-lift helicopter fleet community.

The guidance comes after the US Navy and Marine Corps leadership conducted a review board at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to determine the effectiveness of mitigation measures in place, following the MH-53E mishap in Norfolk, Virginia, US in January last year.

The MH-53E was conducting a routine training exercise when the accident happened that resulted in the death of three sailors.

According to the Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) investigation, the crash occurred due to a fire in the upper left side wall of the crew cabin that filled the cabin and cockpit with smoke causing the aircrew to lose spatial awareness.

"The safety of our crew members is forefront in my mind at all times."

US Marine Corps heavy-lift helicopter programme manager colonel Hank Vanderborght said: "The safety of our crew members is forefront in my mind at all times.

"Having steps explicitly spelled out, supplemented with photos and soon, a video, will address any chafing issues during inspections. I am confident that this course of action will alleviate any concerns in the H-53 community."

AFB-346 provides step-by-step instructions for inspecting CH-53E and MH-53E helicopter cabin fuel and hydraulic tubes, as well as hoses and electrical wiring within 18in of those tubes and hoses, for chafing damage.

The previous guidance AFB-343 had referenced standard military maintenance manuals for the steps involved.

The MH-53E Sea Dragon variant is used for airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) operations and has been in service with the US Navy since 1986.

Image: An MH-53E Sea Dragon conducting a mine sweeping exercise. Photo: courtesy of US Navy.