A dispute has erupted between Boeing Corp. (NYSE:BA) and the Israel Air Force (IAF) over the crash of an Apache Longbow attack helicopter in the first stage of the war in Lebanon. Boeing manufactures the Apache. The crash killed the helicopter’s two-man crew, Col. Zvi Luft and Captain Tam Farkash.
The Apache crashed on July 24 in Israeli territory east of Moshav Ben Zmira on the Lebanese border. Two Apaches were on an attack sortie inside Lebanon, to support Golani Brigade and Paratroopers operating in the Bint Jbeil area.
The IAF crash investigation team ruled that the accident was caused by a rare technical fault. The team found that the crash was caused by a fault in the pin connecting the rotor to the helicopter’s fuselage. Boeing sent to Israel a five-man team, which joined the crash investigation. As a result of the finding, the IAF replaced the suspect part in 11 other Apaches.
Boeing investigators who came to Israel and examined the helicopter’s wreckage ruled that nothing indicated that a mechanical fault or flaw during production caused the crash. Last week, an IAF crash investigation team visited the main Apache production factory in Phoenix, Arizona, because the IDF was worried that the crash was caused by a production problem. The IDF even considered grounding its entire Apache Longbow fleet until the investigation was completed. However, the IAF equipment division decided instead to limit aerial activity by Apaches under a “restrictive maintenance policy”.
At this point in the investigation, a dispute arose between the IAF and Boeing teams. Each Apache costs $35 million, and the IAF demanded that Boeing compensate it for the loss of the helicopter.
In view of the fact the lost Apache was new, and because the fault occurred during the manufacturing phase, the question now is whether Boeing should also compensate the pilots’ families. It turns out however, that Boeing is protected by contracts against being sued by customers for financial compensation to families of pilots killed or wounded by technical faults in their aircraft. The possibility that the Apache crashed because of a production fault could seriously damage Boeing’s reputation.
Boeing’s management instructed its staff to cooperate with the IAF to find the cause of the accident. Boeing has imposed a news blackout on the investigation, but it has been learned that the team of experts from the Apache factory does not agree with the conclusions of the IAF crash investigation team. The Boeing team believes that the fault in the pin was not the first cause that led to the development of the breakdown.
Boeing said in response, “The company is cooperating fully with the IDF and Air Force. Since the investigation is still underway, it would be improper for Boeing to respond at this time.”
An IDF spokesman said, “The investigation is not yet over. The Air Force is flying the helicopters under a restrictive maintenance policy.”
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on September 7, 2006
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