NORFOLK -- The Navy is re-inspecting its entire fleet of MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters 13 months after crash that killed three air crewmen.
13News Now got exclusive access as personnel inspected the electrical wiring and
hydraulic and fluid tubing inside one of the helos. Officials say they're combing through each and every one of their 28 Navy Sea Dragons, plus all 149 Marine Corps variants, which are called Sea Stallions.
Round one of inspections happened last year following the January crash of the Norfolk-based helicopter during training off Virginia Beach.
13News Now reports: Sea Dragon incidents
The investigation in the deadly crash revealed that a foul fuel line had become chafed, creating two holes. As fuel spewed out, it came into contact with a bundle of electrical wires and the arc from those wires caused the catastrophic fire.
"Our number one priority for the pilots and air crew that fl these aircraft is to make sure it's as safe as possible ," said Captain Pat Everly, commodore of Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Atlantic.
The Navy says this is an effort to continue conducting their vital primary mission: mine counter-measures.
A Virginia-Pilot investigation suggested that the initial inspections were not as robust as they could have been. The Navy insisting, though, that this new round of inspections was in motion before any media coverage of any problems.
The commanding officer of HM-15, Commander Patrick Gendron, says he has complete confidence in the process. " Our folks realized there were some training shortfalls and we are addressing those currently ," he said. "I would gladly go out an put myself in this aircraft on any day of the week."
The chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert has said he wants to replace the H-53's with a new automated surface robot which could hunt and destroy mines. But that technology is still years away and the 53's are scheduled to remain in service until 2025.