Reuters International

ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss air force resumed flights with Super Puma helicopters on Thursday after initial checks of a deadly crash in the Alps turned up no evidence that a "systematic fault" led to the mishap, military officials said.

Two pilots died when the Swiss military helicopter crashed just after takeoff on Wednesday, prompting the air force to ground its fleet of the Airbus Super Pumas while it investigated what caused the accident.

Military officials said the downed aircraft touched a power line before the crash but have said the exact circumstances of the mishap were still being examined.

"The accident investigation has so far found no indication of a technical cause or systematic fault with the Super Puma fleet," staff officer Pierre de Goumoens told a news conference in Bern, adding air force leaders had decided to end the temporary grounding on Thursday morning.

Another crew member was injured when the helicopter went down at the Gotthard Pass after dropping off French and Swiss personnel taking part in an international inspection mission.

The European Aviation Safety Authority grounded two types of Super Puma helicopters for commercial use in June following the discovery of metal fatigue in the gearbox of an H225 model that crashed in Norway in late April, killing 13.

Following a series of incidents in the North Sea, analysts and industry executives say questions have been growing over the future of at least the civil version of the Super Puma helicopter, a workhorse of the offshore oil industry.

Airbus Helicopters has said it has no plans to scrap the model.

Wednesday's incident was the latest in a series of Swiss military crashes. A Swiss Air Force F/A 18 fighter jet slammed into a mountainside this month, killing the pilot.

That crash was the third by a Swiss F/A 18 in the past three years. A Swiss F-5E air demonstration fighter jet collided with another plane and crashed into a pond in the northern Netherlands ahead of an air show in June.

(Reporting by Michael Shields)


 Reuters International