Moody AFB, GA
14 Oct 2001
The mishap aircraft, an HH-60G helicopter, SN 97-026776, call sign Jolly 83, was the lead helicopter in a two-ship formation during a Combat Search and Rescue Exercise (CSAREX) on October 13, 2001. Both helicopters are attached to the 41st Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Prior to the mishap, the mishap aircraft was mechanically sound and performing normally.
The mishap pilot attempted to maneuver his aircraft to put his left gunner on three civilian jet skiers in the Kissimmee River who had been identified as a simulated threat by the second helicopter. The mishap aircraft was flying between 100 and 120 knots and between 100 and 150 feet above the ground level when the mishap pilot entered a steeply banked right turn and began to descend. The rapid descent initially went unnoticed by the mishap aircrew. When the mishap pilot noticed the descent, he attempted recovery by applying full left cyclic and increased collective in an effort to arrest the descent rate. After initial control input, the pilot perceived that the cyclic was blocked and focused his attention on that issue as he called out to the copilot twice, “off of the cyclic” and glanced over to the copilot’s position to insure that the copilot was not inadvertently interfering with control movements.
The mishap pilot’s control inputs did not arrest the rate of descent. The aircraft impacted the Kissimmee River, in powered flight at 80 knots forward travel in a right banked, nose up attitude at 1602 Eastern Standard Time (EST). The tail rotor gearbox and paddles separated from the aircraft immediately upon impact. The main rotor blades were torn off when they contacted the river. The mishap aircraft fully submerged a short time after impact. In addition to the damage to the tail and main rotors, the aircraft sustained hydroplane damage to the right stabilator, chin bubble and wind screen. The crewmembers were able to safely egress the helicopter with minor injuries. The surrounding terrain sustained no perceivable damage.
I have determined by clear and convincing evidence that the accident was caused by the mishap pilot’s entry into a right, steep banded turn at low altitude, which resulted in an uncontrolled descent from which he could not recover prior to impacting the river and surrounding terrain. Further, I have determined by substantial evidence that contributing factors included the mishap pilot’s aggressiveness in initiating the maneuver and his general overconfidence with in his ability to fly the aircraft, coupled with his and the mishap crew’s loss of situational awareness in the aircraft’s building rate of decent which prevented timely corrective action.
AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION
AVON PARK – An Air Force helicopter crashed Sunday into the Kissimmee River near Avon Park Gunnery Range. The HH-60 Pavehawk #97-26776 helicopter was assigned to the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. It crashed at about 4 p.m., an Air Force spokesman said. There were no fatalities. Four people were on board the aircraft from the 347th Rescue wing. It was training at Avon Park over the weekend.
Orlando Sentinel October 15, 2001