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U.S. FAA requiring emergency inspections for more Bell helicopters

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By Reuters
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON -The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday it was requiring emergency inspections for more than 500 additional helicopters worldwide after a fatal Bell helicopter crash in Canada.

On Wednesday, the FAA issued an emergency directive requiring main rotor inspections for some Bell model 212, 204 and 205 helicopters covering 140 U.S. helicopters and about 400 worldwide before further flights.

The new directive affects another 359 helicopters in the United States and approximately 529 worldwide.

Helicopter maker Bell, a unit of Textron Inc, on Friday confirmed the expansion noting it covers military variants.

The new directive covers various restricted category helicopters that were originally manufactured by Bell Helicopter.

The restricted aircraft are primarily used by the military and law enforcement. They are also used for forest and wildlife conservation, mineral exploration and other tasks requiring specialized aircraft.

Bell said on Wednesday that even though the investigation was still under way, “to ensure fleet safety, the main rotor strap pins identified … should be removed from service before the next flight.”

It added it was “not at liberty to discuss details of the Transport Safety Board investigation.”

Bell issued a service bulletin on Wednesday, saying, “pins may not have been manufactured in accordance with the engineering design requirements and may therefore shear.”

A 48-year-old pilot died in the June 28 crash near Evansburg, Alberta, as he battled a wildfire, Canadian media reported.

Transport Canada said earlier this week that its investigation into the Bell 212 helicopter accident found that one of the outboard main rotor hub strap pins “sheared off during flight, leading to detachment of the main rotor blade and the main rotor head.”

An inspection of another Canadian Bell 212 helicopter found a main rotor hub strap pin of the same part number to be deformed after only about 29 hours in service, Transport Canada said.

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