September 22, 2017 / 2:53 PM / 2 years ago

Germany to allow Airbus Tiger helicopters to resume flights

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German Defence Ministry on Friday said it would lift the grounding order imposed on Airbus Tiger helicopters after a deadly crash during a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, but was continuing to investigate the cause.

A top ministry official told lawmakers the military’s flight safety commission had recommended allowing flights of the military helicopters, but with conditions on speed, weight and use of the autopilot system. The order also requires additional safety inspections, he said.

“The conditions set for flight cover a wide spectrum of possible causes of the accident. This leads to limited and acceptable restrictions in the operational realm,” state secretary Markus Gruebel wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

Airbus earlier this month warned Tiger pilots to be careful of rapid switches from autopilot to manual mode during turbulence, after initial indications showed that such a switch may have played a role in the July crash that killed both crew members.

Officials said at the time there was no sign the aircraft had been attacked.

Germany grounded its fleet of 26 Tigers after the crash, except in life-threatening situations. The military has been operating four Tigers and four NH-90 transport helicopters in Mali this year in support of a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Gruebel said a preliminary investigation of the wreckage of the downed helicopter did not point to a specific cause of the crash. More thorough examinations were expected in coming weeks, he said.

A ministry spokesman said flights of Tiger helicopters would likely resume in the coming days. A spokesman for Airbus declined to comment since the investigation remains under way.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Victoria Bryan and Andrew Roche

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