All UH-1H helicopters belonging to the National Airborne Service Corps (NASC) were grounded for inspection on Monday after a door fell off one of its aircraft based in Taipei and landed on a school. No one was hurt in the incident.
The door, measuring about 2m2, fell on a perimeter wall of Taipei Municipal Minsheng Junior High School shortly after the helicopter took off from Taipei International Airport at 10:25am.
It sheared off some tree branches before jamming into a metal grill on top of the wall.
Several of the 1,000 students at the school — located a few hundred meters from the southeastern edge of the airport — said they heard a loud bang and were surprised to learn that it was caused by the door of a helicopter.
While NASC Deputy Director-General Liang Kuo-hui (梁國輝) has apologized to the public, he did not explain the cause of the incident.
The 38-year-old craft was en route to a training mission in Taoyuan County with a crew of six, Liang said. The doors remained open after takeoff, which he said was standard procedure.
After learning that one of the doors had fallen off, the pilot landed the helicopter in nearby New Taipei City (新北市) for inspection and later returned to Songshan Airport, said the NASC, an agency dedicated to disaster relief, search-and-rescue missions and emergency medical services.
The aircraft will be serviced by a maintenance contractor, while the entire fleet of UH-1Hs are grounded for inspection.
The service corps operates four types of helicopters, including 20 UH-1Hs, and two types of fixed-wing aircraft.
Some of the aging UH-1Hs will be replaced when Blackhawks, another US-made helicopter, are introduced to the fleet in two to three years, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said.
Lee has ordered an investigation into the incident and a full review of the helicopter’s maintenance procedures and the mechanism under which aging aircraft are replaced.