A French Army Light Aviation (ALAT) NH90 Caïman helicopter had crashed abroad the French Navy Mistral-class amphibious assault ship BPC Dixmude during night-time flight operations at 22:29 local time on Oct 17.
The crew were able to escape unharmed from the helicopter but four sailors, working on the flight deck, were injured in the crash and one of them seriously, according to the French Ministry of Defence (Ministère des Armées). The Ministry added that the Caiman helicopter, belonging to the ALAT’s 1st Combat Helicopter Regiment, was in the take-off phase for a training flight when the accident occurred.
BPC Dixmude was in the North Sea, 70 nautical miles (about 130 km) off Dunkirk during the time of the incident. The vessel was diverted to the Breton port following the incident.
The seriously injured sailor was immediately supported by the medical and surgical teams on board the Dixmude to provide first aid. In coordination with the CROSS (Regional Operational Monitoring and Rescue Center) Griz-Nez, he was then evacuated by Navy’s Caiman helicopter based in Maupertus (Manche) to the military hospital of Percy (Paris region), where he is currently being treated.
The Ministry added that several investigations were being conducted to determine the cause of the accident.
The first NH90 Caiman helicopter was delivered to the French Army Light Aviation (Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre, ALAT) in 2011. Since then and until this accident, the fleet didn’t experienced any incident.
French Navy also operates Caiman helicopter which had on incident during its operational service. On Aug. 28, a Navy NH90 performed emergency landing in a field the Finish town of Argol following an engine fire. No on was injured in the incident.
BPC Dixmude (L9015) is a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, also known as a helicopter carrier, of the French Navy. She are referred to as “projection and command ship” (French: bâtiments de projection et de commandement or BPC). The French Navy operates three Mistral-class vessels.