Investigators Discover Flotation Device Failed in Deadly Helicopter Crash

On Friday, reports revealed that an investigation into a fatal helicopter crash of the IDF that killed two pilots has revealed that a floatation device was damaged on the aircraft upon impact. Thus, it was unable to deploy properly, which caused the aircraft to sink to a depth of about 12 meters. As per the unsourced report, air force investigators had collected all the debris and parts of the helicopter, which resulted in the findings. However, this report is a direct contradiction of the statement of IAF Brig. Gen. Amir Lazar, who had spoken earlier this week to reporters. He had said that the floatation device had been properly deployed. 

An AS565 Panther, the helicopter was obtained from Eurocopter and is called ‘Atalef’, or bat, by the IAF. It has been designed especially for naval operations and can make emergency landings on water, as it boasts a built-in floatation device. Lazar said that pilots activate this floatation system when they make an emergency landing and it had deployed correctly, which enabled a naval officer, also part of the crew, to escape. He had said that they didn’t know why the pilots didn’t make it out. The helicopter had gone down on Monday, just before 9 pm. 

According to an initial investigation, there had been a malfunction in the left motor of the aircraft, which had forced the pilots into making an emergency landing on water. Capt. Ron Birman had managed to make it out of the helicopter, but the pilots, Maj Chen Fogel and Col. Erez Sachyani were not able to do so. Lazar said that rescuers had found the two pilots in the cockpits, still strapped to their seat belts, and lifeless. As per media reports, subsequent investigations showed that the fire and malfunction in the left motor had also resulted in an electrical short that had affected the pilots’ ability to control the helicopter properly as they made an emergency landing.

Therefore, the helicopter had hit the water on its right side with force, which had damaged part of the floatation device, thereby causing it to sink for 12 meters. Birman was able to get out, but the pilots weren’t so lucky. The former is recovering from mild hypothermia and a broken vertebra. On Tuesday, he said that he had tried to pull out the pilots multiple times, but hadn’t been able to do so. He said that a naval police patrol rescued him, after his multiple failed attempts to get his friends out. 

The initial probe discovered that Birman had contacted the head of the helicopter squadron shortly after he exited the aircraft to inform him of the crash. The pilots had been unable to call for help because the power outage had also knocked the radio out. The helicopter had taken off to perform a training flight from Ramat David Air Base and went down after an hour. Onlookers in Haifa had been able to see the aircraft because it was close to the shore. Investigators are also checking to see if there had been any issues between the Navy and Air Force in rescue coordination.

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