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Reports: Pilot, mechanical errors caused Kadena crashes

Jan. 25, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Pilot errors in an HH-60G and mechanical failures in an F-16C caused two mishaps near Kadena Air Base, Japan, Air Force officials announced.

The findings of the investigations into both mishaps were released Jan. 21.

Fatal mishap

The HH-60, assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron, was flying a predeployment mission Aug. 5 when it crashed about 14 miles northeast of Kadena, killing Tech Sgt. Mark Smith, the flight engineer. The pilot, co-pilot and aerial gunner sustained injuries.

The helicopter was flying near another HH-60 on a training mission to drop off pararescuemen in a landing zone near a simulated downed helicopter, according to the crash investigation. The Pave Hawk flying in the lead of the formation at about 150 feet above ground level turned right and, at about 90 degrees, the pilot of the aircraft was surprised to see the other aircraft to his right side.

The pilot perceived an “immediate conflict” with the other helicopter and began to increase bank and descend.

The pilot was unable to stop the descent, and the aircraft crashed.

The HH-60G was severely damaged at a cost of more than $38 million.

The Accident Investigation Board president, Brig. Gen. Steven Basham, found that the crash was caused by the pilot maneuvering the helicopter in a manner that resulted in excessive altitude loss and an inability to stop the descent. The investigation also found that the co-pilot began the turn in the opposite direction of previous planned turns and into the path of the trailing aircraft, and the pilot was not aware of the other aircraft’s position.

F-15C crash

An F-15C assigned to the 44th Fighter Squadron at Kadena crashed May 13 into the Pacific Ocean about 60 miles east of Kadena. The pilot was able to eject and sustained minor injuries. The F-15C was destroyed at a loss of almost $32 million

The F-15C was flying as part of a two-ship training mission. After a second training engagement, the pilot of the F-15C attempted to catch up with the lead pilotwhen the jet stopped responding to flight control inputs. At the same time, the hydraulic, yaw roll and pitch control augmentation system warning lights came on. The pilot was not able to recover from a left descending spiral — after trying for 20 seconds — and ejected at 4,500 feet above sea level.

The Accident Investigation Board president, Col. Terry Scott, found that four factors caused the crash, including a malfunction in the hydro-mechanical flight control system, limited time for malfunction analysis by the pilot and the lack of simulator emergency procedure training .

The fourth factor was that the pilot told investigators that two of his pilot friends had experienced similar mishaps, which led him to believe he needed to eject.

“Due to multiple conversations with the two pilots who experienced similar mishaps, [the pilot] may have determined that the [aircraft] was unrecoverable,” Scott wrote in the report. “I found with proper simulator emergency procedure training, the [pilot] might have been able to overcome his expectancy and restore flight control effectiveness” to the aircraft.■

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