By KATE BANVILLE
A DELICATE mission to bring home four soldiers killed in an army helicopter crash continues, as authorities confirm the aircraft’s ‘black box’ has been retrieved more than a week and a half after the incident.
The MRH-90 Taipan crashed into the ocean at high impact on July 28, during a night flying operation involving four helicopters as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre.
The four crew members – Capt Danniel Lyon, Lt Maxwell Nugent, WO Class Two Joseph Phillip Laycock, and Cpl Alexander Naggs – were on board.
The aircraft and its crew were from Sydney’s 6th Aviation Regiment, which operates in support of special forces and counter-terrorism tasks.
Unidentified human remains were found in the search zone last week, just days after the Australian government said that hopes of finding the four crew members alive had been lost.
Their families later released heartfelt written tributes to the four men.
A Royal Australian Navy dive team recovered the voice and flight data recorder — the black box — from the wreckage on Monday, the Defence Department said.
In a statement, the Defence Department said the recovery “remains a complicated and difficult operation”.
“Defence’s priority remains the recovery of our soldiers and returning them to their families,” it said.
“Defence remains in close contact with the families and is updating them on the operation as new details become available.”
Speaking to the Caller on the grounds of anonymity, a former member of the 6th Aviation Regiment and Blackhawk Pilot said it was a relief that the black box had been recovered, as it would be critical to determine the circumstances of the fatal crash.
The Queensland Coroner has released the recovered wreckage, including the VFDR, to Defence to support the Defence Flight Safety Bureau investigation.
The Taipan fleet remains grounded with Defence Minister Richard Marles vowing last week that it would not fly again until it is understood what happened.
Asked by the Caller last week how many Black Hawks were currently in Australia and how many pilots were certified to fly them, Lieutenant General Bilton said he was unable to give a “specific answer yet”.
“We’re still working through the plan on how we’ll work that capability,” he said.
But that transition is underway with the first three of a 40-strong fleet of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters now in Australia.
Images obtained by the Caller showed the aircraft being unloaded at Sydney’s RAAF Base Richmond last Sunday, two days after the MRH-90 tragedy occurred.
They were quietly delivered to Australia on 30 July by a US Air Force C-17 before being reassembled and flown to Sydney’s 6th Aviation Regiment at Holsworthy Barracks over the weekend.