Helicopter Accidents

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Malmstrom AFB, MT
30 Apr 1965

S/N 63-9680

The Montana Standard (Butte, Montana)

Saturday May 1, 1965, page 1

12 Men Burned In Copter Crash

Near Lewistown, MT.

LEWISTOWN (AP) – An Air Force helicopter crashed and exploded into flames moments after takeoff Friday evening (April 30, 1965), burning the 12 men aboard.

None of the men, four crew men and eight passengers, was believed seriously injured. They were treated at a Lewistown hospital and the Air Force radar station north of Lewistown.

The craft was leaving a central Montana Minuteman Missile launch site.

An Air Force spokesman at Malmstrom Air Force Base near Great Falls, home base for the helicopter, said the craft apparently lost power on takeoff and went out of control after clipping a radio antenna at the missile site, about 10 miles north of Lewistown.

The crash was under investigation.

A rancher, William Kona, said the crash was less than a half-mile from his home and he wasn’t allowed to go near the crash scene. “They’ve got enough soldiers around here to float a battleship,” he said.

A neighbor, Jack Maiden, said he watched the craft come down and it seemed to him that it exploded only moments after it hit the ground.

Requiem for a Chopper

Aerospace Safety Magazine Nov. 1965
(Provided by Bevon R. Dowell)

“A stark tale of tragedy unfolds. The heavy chopper started to lift off the graveled surface, proceeded toward the embankment at the right, faltered, moved to the left, struck the fence, crashed into the ground short of the power lines, settled on its side and caught fire.

The cabin door was on top. Occupants unlatched it. They could not get the door open. Melted nylon began dripping from straps inside the cabin. One of the pilots crawled through a cockpit window broken out in the crash. He ran around and pulled the cabin door free. All crewmembers and passengers escaped.

The board reported that the primary cause factor for this accident could not be unconditionally determined due to the extensive fire damage following the accident. They reported, however, that the most probable cause was pilot factor, in that the loss of aerodynamic lift caused by a reduction of rotor RPM, probably induced by improper pilot technique, was indicated. They reasoned that reduction of rotor RPM was probably caused by either inattention of the pilot to his power indicating instruments and subsequent over demand upon the rotor due to excessive use of collective pitch, or to a rapid application of pitch which, in effect, called for more power than the turbines were capable of producing. In either case, the aircraft would be placed behind the power curve and into a flight condition from which it was impossible for the instructor to make a safe recovery.

The board recommended that all pilots, flying this type helicopter be briefed that, under maximum performance operation, optimum pilot and aircraft performance is necessary, and that the use of engine instruments is essential for establishing power settings.


Although, in the opinion of the board, the following findings did not contribute to the accident, they included them in their final report:

Obstruction or terrain hazards that make such areas as this incompatible with approach or landing safety for this type helicopter are not taken into consideration. The only criteria is that the transverse and longitudinal slope will not exceed four per cent. They suggest such criteria be reviewed and the necessity of including terrain and obstruction clearance be considered.

Presently, cleaning fuel filters is left up to individual opinion during even numbered phase inspections.

The present checklist does not provide the pilot with a takeoff checklist for intermediate stops. They recommend that the checklist be revised to provide such a section.

After impact passenger efforts to evacuate the burning aircraft were frustrated due to inability to reach the emergency release handle or open the door after actuating the normal opening handle of the passenger/cargo door. The recommend that consideration be given to either relocating the emergency release, where passengers can get at it regardless of the position of the fuselage, or providing additional emergency release devices.

Efforts of the passengers to get out of the fuselage and escape from the fire by using the pop-out windows and emergency escape hatches were foiled because nylon seat backs covered these exits. The board suggested that leaving strategic areas of egress uncovered by seat back webbing during passenger carrying operations be evaluated.

Several passengers received third degree burns during escape from the aircraft due to contact with molten fragments of nylon from the seats and interior materials. It was suggested that an evaluation be made relative to replacing nylon materials with a material less hazardous to personnel in a fire environment.

Work has been done on compressor stator blades, but documentation of this work was not made in the 781-A, nor was the required inspection performed or documented. Necessity for an operational check was known, but was not entered in the 781. On this matter the board recommended proper recording of all aircraft discrepancies, subsequent maintenance to clear such discrepancies and the necessity of inspection by a qualified inspector.

Tear down reports failed to disclose materiel cause factors.”

Integrity, Honor, and Respect
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