Thai Army hasn’t grounded Bell 212 helicopters

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BANGKOK, Nov 18 – The Thai Army has given assurances that it will not ground its Bell 212 helicopters, despite one of the type having crashed Monday in Phayao, killing nine military personnel.

Regarding the crash that killed Thai Army 3rd Army Region deputy chief Maj Gen Songphol Thongchine, Army Chief Gen Udomdej Sitabutr said that there is no order to ground the Bell 212s.

He said Bell 212 helicopters are still in use worldwide and there are many army missions that need helicopters for their operations.

Meanwhile, Col Sirichan Nga-thong, deputy army spokesperson, said the Army Aviation Centre and the 3rd Army Region Command were investigating the incident.

They examined the crash site and collected the remains of the chopper on Tuesday.

“I confirm that the Army continues to use Bell 212 helicopters for missions as usual and there is not an order to suspend their services. The Army Aviation Centre has deployed aircraft of various types for missions in all army regions as assigned,” Col Sirichan said.

Maj Gen Thana Jaruwat, spokesman of the 3rd Army Region Command, said that the helicopter that crashed began its service for the Army in 1995 and was deployed at the 3rd Army Region Command to serve commanders’ missions. Lt Gen Sathit Pittharat, 3rd Army Region Commander, had boarded it last Friday.

Maj Gen Thana said an aircraft had a life span of 20-30 years. It should be replaced after 20 years of service, but Thai people maintained aircraft well, so they could be used for as long as 30 years, he said.

“{Monday] the helicopter left Phitsanulok province for Lampang and Phayao heading for Chiang Rai. That was within its flight range. Initially an engine breakdown was blamed but it has not been specified which part caused it. However, engineers always check their aircraft before every flight,” the 3rd Army spokesman said.