President Yoweri Museveni on Monday sacked Lt Gen Charles Lutaaya as UPDF Air Forces commander following increased clashes involving military helicopters, the UG Standard has learnt.
According to the Monday appointments announced by Defence and Army spokesman Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye, Gen Lutaaya has now been appointed senior presidential advisor on matters of Air Forces.
He has been replaced with Maj Gen Charles Okidi, who has also been promoted to Lieutenant General.
Lt Col Stephen Kiggundu has been promoted to Brigadier General and appointed Deputy Command Air Forces.
And now this website has learnt that Gen Lutaaya was removed from the position after a commissioner of inquiry into the clash of the UPDF helicopter in DR Congo pointed to “serious” operational errors.
More than a dozen UPDF soldiers perished in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after the Mi-17 helicopter crashed on them in September.
The helicopter, which is mainly used for transportation, medical evacuation and VIP travel, had just delivered food consignment to the troops engaged in Operation Shujaa when it tumbled and exploded during take-off.
The tail rotor of the helicopter, which was technically on a captain-supervised flight, struck a tree, leading it to spin uncontrollably before crashing on troops collecting the food.
Multiple sources said the Mi-17 helicopter did not land on first attempt in Congo because the cleared helicopter landing zone, or HLZ, on the ground was smaller than the recommended 50-by-50 metre area.
Preliminary findings attribute the crash in western Uganda to technical errors.
The DRC accident occurred three days after an Mi-24 attack helicopter went down on an elderly woman’s house in Fort Portal City, Kabarole District, raising safety concerns for an important service of the military.
The latest back-to-back accidents follow the death of Capt Carol Busingye on February 12, 2021 in a helicopter that crashed shortly after lifting off from Entebbe International Airport.
Earlier in January 2020, Maj Naome Karungi and Cadet Pilot Benon Wakalo on a training flight, perished in a Jet Ranger crash in Butambala District in central Uganda.
The worst air disaster in UPDF history, according to insiders, happened in August 2012 when seven out of a 28-member crew flying to bomb the al-Shabaab in Somalia lost their lives in multiple Mi-24 helicopter crashes on Mountain Kenya.