Crash NH90 helicopter, Aruba
On 19 July 2020, during an exercise off the coast of Aruba, an NH90 helicopter of the Royal Netherlands Navy crashed into the sea. Two of the four crew members were killed. Immediately following the accident, the Dutch Safety Board, together with the Defence Safety Inspectorate (IVD), launched an investigation.
Cause of NH90 crash known, further investigation still needed
On 19 July 2020, during an exercise off the coast of Aruba, an NH90 helicopter of the Royal Netherlands Navy crashed into the sea. Two of the four crew members were killed. Immediately following the accident, the Dutch Safety Board, together with the Defence Safety Inspectorate (IVD), launched an investigation. The preliminary investigation by the Dutch Safety Board outlines the direct cause of the crash and the initial findings. The more in-depth investigation into the possible underlying factors will be carried out by the IVD.
Cause of NH90 crash
The NH90 was operating from the naval vessel HNLMS Groningen, stationed in the Caribbean. The accident took place during helicopter landing practice on the deck of the ship. The investigation by the Dutch Safety Board reveals that the helicopter experienced difficulties when, after completing a turn, the aircraft found itself flying at the same speed as the wind, effectively suspended stationary in the air. In such a situation, a large amount of additional throttle is required to keep the helicopter airborne. Although the pilot applied extra throttle, the low flying altitude meant there was insufficient time to correct the already initiated descent. The helicopter quickly lost altitude and within seconds hit the water.
The crew of the naval vessel saw the helicopter crash into the sea, and immediately launched a rescue operation. The two occupants in the rear of the aircraft were able to escape the aircraft and were retrieved from the water. The pilot and the tactical coordinator in the front of the helicopter were unable to release themselves from the aircraft on time, and drowned. The investigation reveals that the crew of HMLMS Groningen spared no effort in their attempts to save their colleagues. However, due to the high waves and the limited capacity and equipment on board, their rescue attempts proved unsuccessful.
Investigation into underlying factors
The publication of today’s report marks the end of the preliminary investigation by the Safety Board. Although this investigation provides an insight into the direct cause of the accident, it also raises new questions about underlying factors. These questions relate to the level of crew training, the decision to deploy just a single pilot in each NH90 helicopter, and the choices made regarding the equipment on board the naval vessel HNLMS Groningen. The Defence Safety Inspectorate is recommended to consider these questions in the in-depth investigation due to be carried out by the IVD.