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Final IDF probe finds rotor malfunction caused fatal chopper crash in January

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

In an undated photograph, an Israeli navy AS565 Panther helicopter is seen flying during sunset. (Israel Defense Forces)
In an undated photograph, an Israeli navy AS565 Panther helicopter is seen flying during sunset. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces publishes its final findings into a deadly helicopter crash in January.

On January 3, an AS565 Panther helicopter — known in the IAF as an “Atalef,” or bat — crashed just off the coast of the northern city of Haifa. The two pilots, Lt. Col. Erez Sachyani and Maj. Chen Fogel, were killed and a third officer on board, Cpt. Ron Birman, managed to jump out and was rescued with relatively minor injuries.

The final report is nearly identical to interim findings published by the army just one month after the crash.

According to the investigation, the malfunction was a result of corrosion that maintenance failed to identify, as the part in question is located well within the motor and is not part of the routine checks recommended by the manufacturer, France-based Airbus Helicopters.

This malfunction sparked a fire and led to the aircraft striking the water forcefully.

Sachyani and Fogel were calm and in control during the malfunction and handled themselves relatively well, the investigation finds, though it says they did not fully follow protocol in attempting to extinguish the fire.

The final findings of the probe have been presented to Sachyani’s and Fogel’s families, the military says.

“An in-depth, professional, and thorough investigation was conducted here,” IDF chief Aviv Kohavi says. “We lost two of our best pilots in this accident. Our task now is to study the conclusions and lessons learned, and prevent the next accident.”

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