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Is it right to risk the lives of air force personnel in the continued use of Nuri helicopters if the Defence Minister and other VVIPs find them dangerous to use?

Media Statement (2)       
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Wednesday): The country grieves with the families of the six crew members of the S61-A4 Sikorsky Nuri helicopter who perished in a crash in Genting Sempah on Friday, which resulted in a massive five-day search operation involving about 1,600 search and rescue personnel. 

The casualties were: Capt Nor Azlan Termuzi, 29, from Kuala Lumpur; co-pilot Capt Nor Intan Asykeen Mohd Arof, 27, from Butterworth; air quartermaster Flight Sergeant Khusnizam Ariffin, 34, from Kelantan; avionics technician Flight Sergeant Mohamad Azmie Md Yassin, 35, from Batu Berendam, Malacca; airframe technician Leading Aircraftsman Saifulizam Alias, 28, from Muar, Johor; and engine technician Leading Aircraftsman Muhammad Ridzuan Ahmad, 27, from Pokok Sena, Kedah. 

The latest Nuri helicopter crash – the 17th in 40 years and claiming 72 lives - has again raised questions about the safety and airworthiness of the Nuri helicopters. 

It is most heart-rending to read of the account of Hashidee Murshin Hassim, 29, a childhood friend of Captain Nor Azlan Termuzi, of how the pilot in the fatal crash had a “fear of  flying Nuri”. 

Azlan, who had been a pilot for 11 years, had been flying the Nuri on the Sungai Besi-Kuantan route for the past two years. 

The New Straits Times in its report “Captain feared flying Nuri” quoted Hashidee as saying that Azlan had told him that “he would rather drive a truck to Kuantan, because he felt safer”. 

According to the NST report: 

For each flight, Hashidee said, Azlan would always rely on the assurances given to him by the helicopter technician.

"He was even thinking of quitting the force, but his contract with them was the only thing that stopped him as he would have to fork out RM49,000 for breaching it," he said.

"Everytime he flew the Nuri he would call to tell me that he was taking off and upon reaching Kuantan, he would call me again.

"This time, he never called me back."

It is a very serious reflection of the shocking state of morale in the air force when Nuri pilots are living in literal fear of flying the helicopter. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak reiterated yesterday that the Nuris were airworthy “workhorses” of the armed forces in transportation and operations. 

However, when asked whether he had flown on the Nuri, Najib said he had done so earlier but now used a special VIP aircraft. 

Can Najib produce the log of the number of times he had used the Nuri each year since  he  became Defence Minister  in December 1999, and the number of times VVIPs had used the Nuri helicopters in recent years and their identities. 

If the Defence Minister and VVIPs are steering clear of the Nuri, with Nuri pilots like Azlan living in fear of flying the helicopter, is it right to risk the lives of air force personnel in the continued use of Nuri helicopters?


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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