by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Monday, 3rd
Are Nuris “flying coffins”? If not, why not
just upgrade them for a few hundred million ringgit instead of billion-ringgit
purchase of 40-yr-old Cougars?
Are Nuris “flying coffins”? If not, why not
just upgrade them for a few hundred million ringgit, a small fraction of
the cost as compared to the billion-ringgit purchase of Cougar EC725
Eurocopters, which are 40-year-old Cougars in any event?
This is one important question which the Public Accounts Committee
should probe, answer and report to Parliament by before the end of the
month in its current inquiry into the billion-ringgit Cougar EC725
Eurocopter deal fiasco.
The Deputy Defence Minister, Datuk Abu Seman Yusop, in his winding-up on
behalf of the Defence Ministry in the 2009 Budget debate on Thursday,
was not only unable to rebut allegations concerning very grave issues
about propriety, accountability and professionalism in the
decision-making process in the tender for the helicopters to replace the
Nuris , but reinforced concerns of unprofessional and below-par
leadership running the Defence Ministry.
This raises the even more vital question whether Malaysian defence and
security as well as the lives and welfare of the armed services
personnel are really in safe and trustworthy hands and the topmost
priority of those in the highest echelons of the Defence Ministry.
This is apparent from the video (embedded here) of the parliamentary
grilling of Abu Seman by Pakatan Rakyat MPs in Parliament on Thursday.
I have received an email which make my question, “Are Nuris ‘flying
coffins’? If not, why not just upgrade them for a small fraction of the
cost of buying old Cougars?”, most relevant and pertinent, and which
should be the subject of the current PAC inquiry.
This email from a former Nuri pilot claimed that 85 % of the RMAF Nuri
crashes were due to human error, 10 % enemy aggression and another 5 %
only maybe technical.
He also said that the RMAF Nuris are still “good for another 20 years
and more”, having “very low airframe hours, with an average of 9000
hours per aircraft” as compared to “worldwide standard for this type of
helicopter currently is more than 50,000 hours and some even reaching
I am no spokesman or defender for Nuris, but the issues raised of a
great public importance on national defence and the safety of RMAF
personnel, and deserve a full investigation by PAC.
I am circulating a copy of this press statement to all the PAC members
for their action. The email I have received is as follows:
RMAF NURI HELICOPTERS
In the tender process for the replacement of
the Nuri helicopters (Sikorsky S61A), the Nuri helicopter had been
portrayed here as cause for all the crashes. This is not true and
very prejudicial for the image of Sikorsky aircraft, manufactured by
the leading helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation,
USA who have also built well known aircraft like the CH53 Golly
Green Giants, the legendry Blackhawks which had seen 2 Iraq wars and
others like the S76C which are widely used in the offshore oil
industry and the Nuri S61, Sea Kings. Needless to say Sikorsky
helicopters are flown all over the world in the military,
commercial, VIP and offshore oil industry.
The RMAF bought 40 Nuri in 1968. Over the
years the Nuris have served Malaysia with distinction and is still
flying. The Malaysian Armed Forces, especially the Army should be
grateful as they had used them extensively during Malaysian
Communist Emergency warfare. There are many servicemen today who
must thank their present existence to the Nuri which had rescued
them especially from the war zone infested with Communist
Terrorists. Several Nuris were loss during this insurgency phase
which came to a conclusion in 1989. There are many senior Armed
forces officers who will be willing to provide their testimonies to
the goodness of the Nuri helicopter.
RMAF has operated the Nuris for 40 years now.
In any operation of this duration there will be a number of
accidents. Accidents could be due to bad weather, poor terrain
visibility, technical error, human error and maybe act of God. There
are a number of casualties that has involved human lives both from
the military and the civilian population. The RMAF lost a number of
the Nuris in accidents and enemy action and is still operating 28
Nuris both in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah/Sarawak. I am sure that
if we were to check the records for these accidents, 85 % of these
would be due to human error, 10 % enemy aggression and another 5 %
only maybe technical. RMAF should be able to provide these
statistics to prove the point on this before we go around shouting
‘change the heli’. I suppose that’s what happens when one gets old
and when a new one comes along. “Sudah tua punya pasal, bukan sebab
dia ta’baik lagi.”
In the press statement in STAR on the 29th,
the DPM and former Defence Minister said, “we cannot forget the
safety of our armed forces personnel and other Nuri passengers in
the decision making process involving the purchase of Eurocopters”.
Does the Minister mean to say that all the accidents are caused by
the Nuri aircraft? This is definitely not so. More than 1000 of the
S61s were produced and to date more than 600 are still flying in the
commercial and military field. Even the seven S61s flown by MHS with
over 40,000 hours clocked in each aircraft in Malaysia has not had
any accidents involving any casualties. As a former Nuri pilot, I
know for sure that most accidents in the RMAF are caused by human
error- operational situation, lack of experience and poor decision
making. This is in view that the aircraft is not fully equipped for
adverse weather flying conditions that have led to these many
accidents. So under these conditions, even if they have been given
the best of aircraft, do you think there will not be any accidents?
I must congratulate our Prime Minister for
stopping the Eurocopter chopper purchase. At a time like this you
have made a very wise decision. With the current global financial
fallout we must not get caught with a huge buy like this. We should
continue using the Nuris as they are still in good condition. Our
Nuris aircraft have very low airframe hours, with an average of 9000
hours per aircraft. Whereas, the worldwide standard for this type of
helicopter currently is more than 50,000 hours and some even
reaching 60,000 hours. More than 1000 of these machines have been
produced and used by many countries especially the military
services. There is still plenty of airframe life in these Malaysian
Nuris and will be good for another 20 years and more. So why do we
need to spend so much to purchase new aircraft. Why not upgrade our
Nuris now to suit the current requirements which will only cost a
small fraction of buying the old Cougar.
I had previously suggested that the PAC
should invite representatives from all the aircraft manufactures who had
submitted bids for the helicopter tender to appear to help the PAC in
The PAC should in particular invite
representatives from Sikorsky to make a professional submission whether
the Nuri helicopters (Sikorsky S61A) are “flying coffins” whose
continued use constitute a constant danger to the welfare and lives of
the RMAF personnel concerned to help the PAC in its inquiry and report
Even more important, PAC should invite pilots and former pilots of RMAF
Nuri to testify to enable the PAC to answer the question which I have
Kit Siang, DAP
Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor