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What Went Wrong Here


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hey good to see everyone in the crash made it but what went wrong here

Human errors led to Mount Hood crash

 

DENNIS BUTLER / The Associated Press

 

The helicopter did not malfunction, investigators say.

 

PETER PRENGAMAN

The Associated Press

September 18, 2002

 

PORTLAND — Pilot error and a lack of power caused an Air Force Reserve helicopter to crash while performing a high-altitude rescue mission on Mount Hood in May, military investigators said Tuesday.

 

Investigators said several factors contributed to the crash of the Pave Hawk helicopter at 10,700 feet, including a failure to follow proper procedure when calculating how much power the helicopter needed and the pilot’s slow reaction time when the aircraft began to falter.

 

The investigators, based at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, said the helicopter did not malfunction.

 

The helicopter crash May 30 began when several climbers lost their footing on Oregon’s highest mountain and began sliding down a glacier about 800 feet below the 11,240-foot summit.

 

They collided with two other parties of climbers, sending nine people into a crevasse. Three people died: William Ward, 49, and Richard Read, 48, both of Forest Grove; and John Biggs, 62, of Windsor, Calif.

 

Five hours later, the Air Force Reserve helicopter was hovering above the climbers and preparing to haul one up by cable when it started losing control in the icy mountain air.

 

The nose of the helicopter crashed into the slope, thrusting its body into the mountain and shattering its rotors as it rolled 200 feet. Four of the six crew members were tossed out an open side door. All of the crew members were injured but only one seriously.

 

Thousands of people watched the crash on live television.

 

A series of mistakes led to the crash, investigators said Tuesday.

 

Flight engineers miscalculated how much power the chopper needed to complete the rescue by about 6 percent, they said. In addition, flight engineers made the first power calculations using manual charts but did not perform a second manual calculation as required by Air Force procedure.

 

Instead, the flight engineers used a flight instrument that had been decertified since January to verify their manual calculations, said Col. Stephen Duresky, the lead investigator.

 

“I can’t tell you why they were using it,” he said. “They shouldn’t have been.”

 

Duresky said dramatically changing headwinds could have confused the flight crew and made it hard to read the manual charts, which look like slide rules. When the chopper took off, winds were blowing at 12 to 15 knots but got stronger, he said.

 

Once the helicopter began losing power and faltering in the air, the pilot’s slow reaction time caused it to go into a nose dive, Duresky said.

 

Crew members should have immediately released the cable attached to the stretcher holding the injured climber below, then turned to the left and circled back. Instead, Duresky said, they didn’t let go of the cable until the pilot completely lost control of the helicopter and attempted to land.

 

“The one decision the pilots make is, ‘Can we do the mission or can’t we?’ They decided they could and made an error,” Duresky said.

 

Though the helicopter will cost $4.7 million to repair, Duresky said the Pave Hawk would fly again.

 

The Air Force hasn’t decided whether to take disciplinary action against the flight crew, he said.

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