Army report blames crew - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Army report blames crew

January 5, 2007

Albany -- The Army puts much of the blame on the flight crew for the crash of a helicopter that killed four soldiers and eventually led to the falling of two TV towers for WALB and WFXL, last June.

The army report reveals there were no technical problems with the helicopter before it hit the TV guy wire in Colquitt County and crashed. The Army acknowledged the weather may have contributed, but also says "a lack of aircrew situational awareness" caused the helicopter to go down in Colquitt County.  

It was about 8 o'clock in the morning June first when a MH-47 Chinook Helicopter clipped a guy wire on WFXL's TV Tower, forcing the helicopter to crash in a nearby field. Only one of the five crew members survived and now an investigation of that crash says the crew was to blame.

 "Our investigation concluded that there was no technical problem with the aircraft. We concluded that there were several contributing factors that lead to the accident, and they all related to a lack of air crew situational awareness. Those contributing factors included the crew not focusing on the task at hand," said 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment spokeswoman Kimberly Laudano.

When our pilots are flying an aircraft, especially with the advanced technology they have to use a combination of basic navigational skills, which means they have to pay attention to the outside of the aircraft. Special Operations officials say that lack of attention, coupled with the inclement weather, made for a deadly combination.

"The deteriorating weather conditions that day were a contributing factor to the accident because obviously it reduced visibility but it was not the only factor that caused the accident,"  Laudano said.

Examination of the flight plan filed by the crew revealed the soldiers should have been aware of the two television towers. "The towers were marked on their flight plan, and that is part of where the break down in crew coordination occurred. They definitely could have communicated more effectively on the potential route hazards, specifically the antennas."

After examining the findings and reviewing safety procedures the Special Operations Aviation Regiment plans to spend more time training their air crews with a greater emphasis on route selection, maintaining surveillance, and navigation.

Sergeant Christopher Erberich, 25,  Sergeant Michael Hall, 30, Sergeant Rhonald Meeks, 28, and 41 year old Chief Warrant officer Michael Wright were killed in the crash. They all belonged to the third battalion, 160th special operations aviation regiment.

The families of those killed in the crash were briefed on the report last month.

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