Air force NH90 helicopter still grounded after emergency landing in Marlborough

Defence force crews carry out repairs to the helicopter on Tuesday.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Defence force crews carry out repairs to the helicopter on Tuesday.

An air force helicopter has spent two days at a private airfield in Marlborough after a mid-air engine failure on Sunday.

The multimillion-dollar NH90 was flying out of Marlborough when one of its two engines failed and it was forced to make an emergency landing.

The helicopter, one of eight  bought in 2012, was on display at the Yealands Classic Fighter Omaka Airshow, which finished in Blenheim on Sunday.

The NH90 on display at the Yealands Classic Fighters Omaka Airshow on Sunday.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

The NH90 on display at the Yealands Classic Fighters Omaka Airshow on Sunday.

The crew of nine people was forced to turn back and land the helicopter at the airfield, near Spring Creek, north of Blenheim, a defence force spokesman said.

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It left Woodbourne airport and had just crossed the coast on its way to Ohakea Air Force Base when the engine failed, he said.

The helicopter landed "without incident" and no emergency services were called, the spokesman said.

Neighbour Reon Ratima said the helicopter descended "on an angle", landing like an airplane.

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"We looked out the door and thought, 'woah, that is close'. We don't get too many big planes or choppers around here," Ratima said.

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"Later on, four air force vans went past."

A Hercules airplane already at Base Woodbourne was used to carry equipment to the NH90, the spokesman said.

A team of engineers was inspecting the engine at the airfield on Tuesday afternoon.

It was too early to say how much the repairs would cost, the spokesman said.

The fleet of eight helicopters was ordered in 2006 to replace the air force's Iroquois helicopters from the Vietnam War era.

A ninth NH90 was also bought for spare parts.

The helicopters cost $771 million, which included training, software and equipment. Support and logistics made up a third of the cost.

They could carry up to 18 passengers and lift an army vehicle or up to 3200 kilograms of cargo.

The NH90s had twin engines for safety in winter.

The purchase came under fire in 2012 when it was revealed a serious flaw meant they could not be flown in snowy conditions.

The air force was the first military force to use the NH90s, winning criticism from Auditor-General Lyn Provost who said New Zealand should not be buying "first of type" equipment.

 - The Marlborough Express

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