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Fatal flaw

July 20,2018
We are dumbfounded by the Blue House’s response to the fatal crash of a Marine helicopter in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, on Tuesday. Surveillance footage shows the rotor flying off the chopper’s body four to five seconds after takeoff. The incident killed five of the six Marines on board.

The accident resembles what happened to the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma — which the MUH-1 was modeled after — in Scotland in 2009 and in Norway in 2016. The two crashes in Europe also took place after their rotors separated from the helicopters. The cause turned out to be cracks in the transmission gear.

Many defense analysts in Korea are now attributing the crash to mechanical defects or poor maintenance. The MUH-1 was renovated to fold its rotors so that it can land on amphibious assault ships. That naturally makes its blades more vulnerable to internal or external conditions.

Yet the Blue House’s spokesman, Kim Eui-kyum, said the helicopter’s capability and performance was among the best in the world. His remarks are equivalent to suggesting a guideline for the military’s investigation into the case. If so, the cause of the crash will most likely end up being labeled as pilot error or maintenance problems.

Such a result would not be courteous to the Marines who lost their lives, nor will it help find the exact cause of the crash. Even if the accident took place shortly before the government was to sign a contract to sell the choppers overseas, the Ministry of National Defense cannot hold the lives of our Marines hostage to make money from exports.

After the Blue House’s announcement, the victims’ families urged the military to set up an independent committee to investigate the crash and allow them to visit the site. They even threatened not to accept a joint funeral without consultations.

There were some warning signs. Korea Aerospace Industries, the defense contractor, appointed a chief executive that had no experience in the industry. There are rumors that many engineers have already left the company since. The government must get to the bottom of the case and find out what really caused the tragedy.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 20, Page 30