BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
UK military 'failing to maintain helicopters'
British troops in Oman
Only 55% of helicopters in Oman were operational
Serious failings in the management of Britain's military helicopters are having a "severe" impact on their availability for operations, the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed.

During last year's massive Saif Sareea II exercise in Oman only 55% of helicopters taking part were ready for use at any one time, according to the Whitehall spending watchdog.

It criticises the Ministry of Defence for not having sufficient spare parts such as engines and gearboxes, and for not identifying problems quickly enough.

The report says there are lessons to be learned from private companies like British Airways and Bristows, which have fewer resources, but are better at keeping their helicopters flying.

The chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Tory MP Edward Leigh, said he was "alarmed" by the findings.

Computer records

Apart from the problems in Oman the auditors pointed to further failings when the Royal Navy's amphibious assault Sea King helicopters were deployed to Sierra Leone in 2000.


Private organisations like British Airways and Bristows who do better with fewer resources

Edward Leigh
The mission took all the spare engines with them, leaving none for the Navy's air-sea rescue helicopters in the UK. As a result Navy engineers struggled to keep them flying.

Another problem arose when a fault was found in the main rotor head of the Army and Navy's Lynx helicopters.

Poor computer records meant the Ministry of Defence did not know which were at risk, with the result that many aircraft were grounded and some rotor heads taken out of service prematurely.

The uncertainty meant warships were forced to put to sea without their Lynx helicopters - which protect against submarine attack - resulting in a "significant downgrading of operational capability".

The Lynx is also the mainstay of the Army's operations in Northern Ireland.

'Frankly amazed'

Most of the problems seem to lie within the Defence Logistics Organisation, which is struggling to streamline three separate computer systems inherited from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The systems, which catalogue maintenance and safety, are still "some years" away from being fully integrated.

Urging the MoD to learn from the private sector it said Bristow Helicopters achieved 90% availability of its helicopter fleet with a maximum of 30% "critical" spares - like engines and gearboxes.

In contrast the MoD had 2,100 helicopter engines for just 800 aircraft, but many were unusable.

Mr Leigh said: "Considering how bad the MoD's information systems are, I am frankly amazed that it is able to get as many helicopters ready for action as it does.

"Of course we need to take different contexts into account but the MoD can learn from private organisations like British Airways and Bristows who do better with fewer resources, simply because of their more advanced information systems."

See also:

20 Mar 02 | N Ireland
16 Mar 02 | N Ireland
27 Oct 00 | Scotland
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes