Pilots who lost their lives had many flying hours behind them

"We are constantly working on flight safety, always trying to develop preventive measures to minimise the risk of accidents," says Jan Andersson, Chief of Staff Swedish Air Force, in the wake of yesterday's helicopter crash in which four officers lost their lives.

The crash site outside Ryd in Småland. Photo: Alexander Karlsson/Combat Camera

The cause of the accident, in which two helicopters of the type known in Sweden as Helicopter 9 were involved in a mid-air collision, is still unknown. The Swedish Accident Investigation Board has now commenced its work.

In previous reports by the Accident Investigation Board the Armed Forces have been criticised for shortcomings in the central organisation. Procedures for the operational part of their activities have been improved and regulations have been clarified.

"Work to remedy the shortcomings that still exist in the central organisation is still in progress and has been given high priority," says Lars Hall from the Flight Safety division at Armed Forces Headquarters.

At the present time old helicopter systems are also being phased out and replaced by new, which means that personnel are being sent on courses for training in the new systems. Parts of the aircrew training are conducted on the ground which in turn means that the pilots fly less during that period.

However this does not affect flight safety. Missions are adjusted to meet changing circumstances in all areas, especially on the flying side," says Lars Hall.

According to Lars Hall, it would be wrong to draw any conclusion from this in the context of Tuesday's accident which must first be investigated by the Accident Investigation Board.

The pilots who lost their lives were reasonably experienced and had recently been given priority and a lot of flying time, around 200 hours over the last 12 months, since they belonged to the unit that served in Kosovo," Lars Hall says.

In total the four pilots each had between 850 and 2,000 flying hours.

Helicopter 9 is considered to be a very safe helicopter system and has accumulated 93,000 flight hours in military service. If the investigation reveals no technical shortcomings in the system, flying activities will be resumed as soon as possible.

"On Wednesday, all helicopter squadron flying activities, other than that in support of the Swedish Accident Investigation Board, is been suspended. This is primarily out of consideration for the personnel and not for reasons of flight safety," says Air Force Chief of Staff Jan Andersson.