Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Steven Elton Courtney, Sr. Amn., USAF (Fallen)September 14, 1959 – September 01, 1988
HH-3E #65-1278129 Palms, CA.01 September 1988
1988 – September 01; HH-3E #65-12781 with the California Air National Guard, 129th ARRGp., from Moffett Naval Air Station, CA. crewed by Maj. Terry A. Nelson (P), Lt. Col. Leslie E. Spencer (CP), Sr. Amn. Steven E. Courtney (FE) and SSgt. Steven E. Carlyle (PJ) was on a local two day search and rescue training mission with the 27th TASS.
The helicopter departed George AFB, CA. at 09:07 am to participate in the first exercise scenario, a simulated survivor pick up with an OV-10 Bronco escort. The scenario was conducted in the northwest sector of the 29 Palms Marine Corps Reservation restricted area R-2501N. One OV-10 pilot was on board the helicopter as an observer, another was playing the survivor role on the ground.
After a routine pick-up, the HH-3E departed the range, returning back to George AFB with both OV-10 pilots, 1st Lt. James K. Dooley & 1st LT. Patrick L. Henry on board. While leaving the training area, the aircraft struck a ridge ten feet below the crest. The helicopter became airborne again for 450 feet before impacting the back side of the same ridge. After the second impact, the aircraft rolled to the left and started burning. The impact forces and fire destroyed the helicopter killing all six on board.