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Injured airman flies for first time since Afghan crash

Apr. 9, 2013 - 12:42PM   |  
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christofer Curtis disembarks from a CV-22 Osprey on Monday at Hurlburt Field after his first flight since an aircraft crash in Afghanistan during deployment in 2010. Curtis, a CV-22 flight engineer of the 8th Special Operations Squadron, is working to become re-certified for his position after recovering from injuries including 17 broken bones.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christofer Curtis disembarks from a CV-22 Osprey on Monday at Hurlburt Field after his first flight since an aircraft crash in Afghanistan during deployment in 2010. Curtis, a CV-22 flight engineer of the 8th Special Operations Squadron, is working to become re-certified for his position after recovering from injuries including 17 broken bones. (Pensacola News Journal)
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MARY ESTHER, Fla. — After 17 broken bones from a crash in Afghanistan and 14 surgeries to repair the damage, Air Force Tech Sgt. Christofer Curtis was back in the air Monday.

He completed a training flight on a CV-22 Osprey helicopter, saying his back hurt a bit but that he wasn’t complaining.

Curtis, a Navarre, Fla., resident originally from Grass Valley, Calif., said it felt right to be back in the air.

“It took a while for me to get to that point,” he said.

The 34-year-old was aboard an Osprey that crashed in Afghanistan on April 9, 2010. Four people died, and 16 were injured.

Left with 17 broken bones, Curtis spent more than six months at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., before being transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

There, he learned to walk again. Today, he has a titanium knee, and things like sitting down and standing up don’t always feel exactly right. He has only a slight limp.

“I set two goals when I woke up. One was to walk again and the second ... was to fly, and it was a lot longer and harder of a challenge than I initially thought,” he said.

When Curtis returned to Hurlburt Field here after his rehabilitation, he started training again to go back to his old job as a flight engineer. Monday’s flight was the first on his path to re-qualify for that role.

“It’s just little goals at a time,” he said. “If I were to think about there to here, no way. Not even close. (The Air Force was) able to help me along that path with those small goals.”

His interview after the flight happened before he debriefed with his instructor and colleagues. He said he didn’t know exactly how the flight went but said his instructor was smiling.

“This is first step on flight one,” Curtis said. “All right, give me flight two, you know? Obviously, it’s that big hurdle, that first of anything. So I’m very glad to be past that.”

The exact cause of the crash was never determined, though a number of factors ranging from pilot error to mechanical malfunctions contributed, according to an Air Force accident executive summary.

Curtis said he never felt deterred from flying again. He said his colleagues were supportive the whole way through, even if some of the doctors treating him found his goal of flying again unattainable.

“Wounded folks, generally ... just want to return back to what they did before,” he said. “They loved it; that’s why they did it.”

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