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Old 02-11-2021, 07:56 AM
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Exclamation A 'Disturbing Pattern' of Deadly Army Black Hawk Crashes Has Lawmakers Asking Questio

#1 A 'Disturbing Pattern' of Deadly Army Black Hawk Crashes Has Lawmakers Asking Questions
By: Mathhew Cox - News - 02-10-21

Photo link:
A U.S. Army UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopter flies overhead during a training exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Chase Cannon)

A Democratic senator from New York has called on the new defense secretary to investigate a "disturbing pattern" of UH-60 Black Hawk crashes that have claimed the lives of nine Army National Guard soldiers since December 2019.

"Three crashes involving the National Guard's use of the UH-60 in just over a year raises significant concerns about a systemic issue with the Black Hawk helicopter operation cycle," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in a Feb. 5 letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Gillibrand's letter follows two Black Hawk crashes this year, one that killed three Idaho Guard pilots Feb. 2 and one that killed three New York Guard pilots Jan. 20. An earlier Black Hawk crash on Dec. 5, 2019, killed three Minnesota Guard soldiers.

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A separate Aug. 27, 2020, crash in California that killed two members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment who were flying in a special operations version of the Black Hawk known as the MH-60 "raises additional questions that we urgently need answered," Gillibrand said in her letter to Austin.

"Accordingly, I ask that you take all necessary steps to promptly investigate these incidents to determine if they fit a larger pattern of malfunction with the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter," she added.

The U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, is investigating the recent Idaho and New York Guard crashes as "disparate events," Gillibrand said in her letter.

The summary results of the December 2019 Minnesota Guard UH-60 crash investigation concluded that the "helicopter's number one engine failed during a maximum power check while the number two engine was in an idle setting, causing a dual engine-out condition. The failure was attributed to the incorrect installation of the engine's hydromechanical unit," Gillibrand said in the letter.

The investigation also found that the pilots failed to react properly to the critical situation and follow emergency procedures.

The Black Hawk entered service in the late 1970s. The Army is scheduled to begin replacing it in 2030 with the faster, more modern Future Long Range Assault Aircraft under the Future Vertical Lift program.

If this series of accidents represents a larger problem with the Cold War-era helicopter, Gillibrand asked that the Pentagon "produce recommendations and guidance regarding the operational readiness of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and its crew to ensure the safety of our service members," according to the letter.

She also requested that Austin provide a classified briefing on the status of the his investigation that should include "any mechanical, software, electrical, or other problems with the UH-60 Black Hawk that cause it to malfunction or make it further difficult to pilot, and ... the Department of Defense's plan to rectify this issue," the letter states.

"Because of the ongoing danger posed to our service members, I ask for this briefing to occur as soon as the disparate investigations are complete," Gillibrand said in the letter.

About this writer: - Matthew Cox can be reached at
Related Topics: Military Headlines Gear and Equipment Aviation Accidents UH-60 Black Hawk.


Personal note: I've worked around aircraft for nearly 12 years. Accidents will result every now and then - nothing is infalible.

Here's a link listing accidents and incidents involving military aircraft (2020–present)


#2 Idaho’s Black Hawk crash was the fourth on a U.S. flight in just over a year
By: Jacob Scholl Idaho Statesman News: 02-04-21

The Black Hawk helicopter training crash that killed three Idaho National Guard members Tuesday night was the latest in a run of such crashes around the country. It is also not the first fatal helicopter crash in Idaho involving members of the National Guard.

The Tuesday incident just outside of Boise was at least the fourth deadly crash in recent months involving a Black Hawk in the U.S., according to media reports.

Here’s what is known about the four crashes:

▪ Idaho, Feb. 2, 2021: Col. Christopher Burt, the Idaho Army National Guard’s state aviation officer, said a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter last made contact at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday evening, and an emergency locator transmitter was activated just after 8 p.m. Air and land search crews were activated and later found the downed aircraft and personnel at around 12:15 a.m. Wednesday morning. The helicopter was on a training flight.

Photo link:
Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter PROVIDED BY IDAHO NATIONAL GUARD

▪ New York, Jan. 20, 2021: Three members of the New York Army National Guard were killed when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter based in Rochester, New York, crashed during a routine training mission, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. An eyewitness to the crash later told the newspaper his house shook when the helicopter hit the ground, and he could see flames from his home a half-mile away from the crash site.

▪ California, Aug. 27, 2020: Two men were killed and three others were injured when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training exercise near San Clemente Island, California, according to The Associated Press. The two killed belonged to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment of the U.S. Army based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and both enlisted in the Army as Black Hawk repairmen, according to a statement from the U.S. Army. Army officials categorized the fatal crash as an “aircraft mishap.”

▪ Minnesota, Dec. 5, 2019: Three Minnesota National Guard members were killed when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed near St. Cloud, Minnesota, in early December 2019. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the three-man crew was conducting a maintenance flight when an engine failed and the helicopter crashed. An investigation later revealed that an improper installation of an engine’s hydromechanical unit caused the engine to fail, leading to the fatal crash.

One Army member was killed and two were injured in an April 2017 crash on a Maryland golf course, according to The Washington Post. The widow of the helicopter crew chief filed a lawsuit against the Black Hawk’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. The lawsuit challenged the safety of the Black Hawk. That also was a training mission.

A UH-60 Black Hawk crash in March 2015 also claimed the lives of 11 members of the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army and Louisiana National Guard after the helicopter went down off the coast of the Florida Panhandle near Pensacola. The aircraft was conducting night training in poor weather when it disappeared. The wreckage was later found in the Santa Rosa Sound near Fort Walton Beach, Florida, according to the Pensacola News Journal.

Another Idaho Army National Guard helicopter, an Apache based at Gowen Field, crashed on Nov. 6, 2014, killing Guard members Jon Hartway, 43, of Kuna, and Stien Gearhart, 50, of Meridian. They were on a training mission when runaway RPMs triggered an automatic shutdown of both engines. The helicopter crashed in a field south of Boise, killing both men.

Gearhart and Hartway were experienced, highly rated pilots who had served in combat in Afghanistan.

#3 Fatal crashes prompt U.S. senator to question Black Hawk safety
By: Dan Parsons - Vertical News - 02-09-21

Two recent Black Hawk helicopter crashes that killed six Army National Guard soldiers have reawakened concerns in Congress that systemic safety issues in U.S. military aviation are causing unnecessary non-combat casualties.

On Jan. 19, three New York Guard aviators died when their UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter went down just south of Lake Ontario near the city of Rochester. Two weeks later, three Idaho National Guard soldiers died when their UH-60 crashed in rugged, mountainous terrain near the state capital of Boise.

Photo link:
New York Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crews conduct water bucket training at Round Lake on May 13, 2020. Eric Durr Photo

Those crashes prompted Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), to pen a Feb. 5 letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin calling for analysis of recent crashes to “determine if they fit a larger pattern of malfunction with the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.”

Gillibrand also highlighted the December 2019 crash near St. Cloud, Minnesota, of a UH-60 that killed three of that state’s National Guard aviators. An investigation of that crash, Gillibrand points out in the letter to Austin, concluded that the helicopter’s number one engine failed during a maximum-power check while the number two engine was idling, creating a situation where neither engine provided power to the main rotor system. The failure ultimately was attributed to incorrect installation of the engine’s hydromechanical fuel control unit.

The August 2020 crash of an MH-60 helicopter operated by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was also offered as a potentially related incident. Two special operations aviators were lost in the crash near San Clemente Island, California.

“At this time, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker is investigating the recent crashes outside of Rochester and Boise,” Gillibrand wrote. “These incidents are being investigated as disparate events. However, three crashes involving the National Guard’s use of the UH-60 in just over a year raises significant concerns about a systemic issue with the Black Hawk helicopter operation cycle. The further case of the MH-60 crash raises additional questions that we urgently need answered.”

Photo link:
Soldiers assigned to the New York National Guard Honor Guard carry a casket holding the remains of Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, a UH-60 pilot assigned to Charlie Company, 1-171 General Support Aviation Battalion, killed when his helicopter crashed Jan. 20. U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Alexander Rector

Gillibrand sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), which oversees military issues, and would be an appropriate forum for hearings on aviation safety, though no hearings for the current Congress have been set. She has asked for Defense Department recommendations and guidance on the readiness of both the UH-60 and pilots and crews who operate them.

Aviation safety likely will be discussed in future SASC hearings where President Joe Biden’s civilian military appointees and uniformed officers will testify. Gillibrand also requested a classified briefing on the status of investigations into the recent fatal crashes and “any mechanical, software, electrical, or other problems with the UH-60 Black Hawk that cause it to malfunction or make it further difficult to pilot.”

Aviation safety was the sole focus of the National Commission on Military Aviation Safety, which wrapped up an 18-month inquiry in late 2020 with the publication of 130-page report on U.S. military aircraft crashes crashes between 2013 and 2018.

After visiting 80 U.S. military sites and consulting 200 aviation units, NCMAS members found that pilots were not flying enough hours to remain proficient, maintenance personnel were insufficiently trained and suffered from low morale, and that supply chains lacked adequate throughput to keep aircraft in flying shape.

The U.S. Defense Department as a whole and individual service secretaries, chiefs of staff and aviation chiefs have consistently sounded the alarm that pilots are not flying the minimum number of hours needed to maintain proficiency.

Pilots who monthly flew significant operational hours during the height of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan found it more difficult to gain time in the cockpit as U.S. involvement in those conflicts waned. The problem was exacerbated by an across-the-board 2013 federal budget cut.

One of the primary NCMAS recommendations was a return to 2010 operational and training flight hour levels.

During the commission’s six-year study period, aviation mishaps cost the U.S. military 198 lives, 157 aircraft, and more than $9 billion in damage. The report elaborates on safety issues related to human performance, environmental factors like command structure, morale and operational demand, and “machine” factors, but does not detail or enumerate safety records of individual aircraft types.

Army data published in the January 2021 issue of Flightfax, an online Army aviation safety newsletter, shows 160 total UH-60 mishaps between 2016 and 2020, of which 18 were “Class A” that resulted in at least $2 million in damage and/or the death or permanent disability of personnel.

That many accidents during a collective 1.7 million flight hours gave a rate of .87 class A mishaps per 100,000 flight hours, lower than the Army’s overall rate of 1.03 and lower than the H-60’s previous five-year rate of 1.04. Flightfax’s review of the period between 2016 and 2020 shows human error was the primary cause factor in 83 percent of the mishaps with the remaining 17 percent attributed to mechanical failure.


Personal note: Have you ever noticed when they can't figure out what caused the failure - it's always a Pilot Error? Figures!
Why can't they say the supplier's quality was in question - that sounds better then always copping a Pilot Error!

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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