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4 May 2000 Edition

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Dangerous aircraft withdrawn

BY DEIRDRE FEEHAN

The British Army has withdrawn eight Lynx helicopters from service in the Six Counties after a problem was identified in the rotor system.

The South Armagh Farmers and Residents group said the move proved that all British Army helicopter flights should cease before a serious accident occurs.

While a number of helicopters have been withdrawn following an accident involving a Dutch naval helicopter, Lynxes are still being used throughout the Six Counties, and particularly in border areas.

The British Army say it is still investigating the crash of a Lynx in a quarry in Mullaghbawn, South Armagh, some weeks ago, where they say a number of soldiers were injured, although locals believe that two soldiers may have been killed in the crash.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Conor Murphy says that low-flying helicopters are a ``blight'' on the lives of people in South Armagh. ``There is evidence of mechanical faults with the Lynx and Puma helicopters used by the British Army,'' he said.

``While there will be some slight relief at the news that some of these helicopters are being withdrawn, we do not know where they were based''.

Toni Carragher of the South Armagh Farmers and Residents' Committee asked ``why has it taken them so long to admit that there is a fault with these aircraft?

``This proves that there should be a total withdrawal of all helicopters from South Armagh. There have been too many crashes and near misses.''
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