Share article:
Share article:

Defence ministry cuts helicopter flights in half over costs

The NH-90 TTH used by the Belgian services. © Airbus

The defence ministry has ordered the number of flights by four transport helicopters to be cut in half because the aircraft are too expensive to maintain, the VRT reports.

The four NH-90 helicopters in the TTH or tactical troop helicopter version were bought by the government five years ago for €30 million each. The helicopter is approved by NATO, and constructed by the NHIndustries partnership made up of Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Fokker Aerostructures.

However the defence ministry under Philippe Goffin (MR) has found that one hour of flight of the NH-90 costs no less than €12,000. And the aircraft break down so often the services do not have enough personnel to keep them flight-worthy.

The hourly cost is more than double the €5,000 an hour it cost to run the NH-90’s predecessor, the Sea King. Belgium’s last three Sea Kings were decommissioned in 2019 after 40 years of service.

The ministry has now decided to cut the number of hours the helicopters are in the air from the previous target of 1,000 hours to 600. It will also commission a study to look at what might be done with the helicopters to obtain the optimum value for the cost. One option, the VRT reports, would be to get rid of them altogether.

The cut in hours does not, however, affect the four NH-90s in service with the navy, which are an adapted version of the transport aircraft. Those helicopters are used for air-sea rescue operations from the base at Koksijde, and will continue to operate as before.

The problems with the NH-90s are not new. In 2018 three of the four air-sea rescue craft had to be returned to NHIndustries for repairs to the radar systems, leaving only one in service. When that one also had to be grounded for servicing, Belgium’s neighbours temporarily had to step in to ensure a rescue service in Belgian waters.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Increase in number of people ‘asking King for mercy’ through royal pardons
More and more people living in Belgium have been seeking royal pardons, mainly for fines, largely as a result of it now being possible to send in ...
England now accepting cheaper Covid tests from fully vaccinated travellers
Fully vaccinated travellers who enter England from non-red countries will only be required to book a lateral flow test to take following their ...
Re-introducing face masks indoors considered as Covid-19 situation worsens
Belgium's council of ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the worsening epidemiological situation, and reintroducing face ...
Federal museums to receive €2.9 million booster shot
Federal museums will receive an additional €2.9 million in support from the government for the fiscal year 2021, of which the first payouts will be ...
European Parliament emphasises healthy food and animal welfare in EU Farm to Fork Strategy
The European Parliament adopted this week a resolution on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy calling for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food ...
Threats of strike action could affect Brussels’ STIB network from Monday
Brussels public transport operator STIB's trams, buses and metros could be affected from Monday 25 October onwards as the union representing the ...
Number of international adoptions in Belgium continues to drop
The number of regulated international adoptions authorised by Belgium further dropped in 2020, continuing an ongoing decreasing trend. Last ...
Disaster drill with emergency services held at Brussels Airport
Around 300 people took part in a disaster drill held was organised on Saturday by Brussels Airport in collaboration with external emergency services ...
Austria presents bill to legalise euthanasia
Austria’s government on Saturday presented its proposals for legalising assisted suicide, in response to a Constitutional Court ruling that the ...
Brussels’ Museum Night Fever draws in some 12,000 visitors
Some 12,000 participants took part in the 14th edition of Museum Night Fever in Brussels, with the 29 participating museums filled to the maximum ...
Relaunch of 10,000 steps campaign to get Flemish people moving
The Flemish government is breathing new life into its 10,000 steps campaign to get people in the region moving after a recent survey found that a ...
‘No scientific basis’ for giving everyone third dose, vaccine expert says
The head of Belgium's Vaccination Taskforce has argued that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the Flemish government's decision to ...