Helicopter Accidents

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Ellsworth AFB, SD
1 Sep 1982

Information Provided Courtesy of Bret S. Whitmore, former TSgt, USAF,
28 BW/HO Ellsworth AFB, SD. (SAC/ACC).

Date: Wednesday, 1 September 1982.

Parent Unit: Det. 2, 37 ARRS (MAC), “Thunderhueys”; tenant unit of 44th Strategic Missile Wing (SAC), Ellsworth AFB, SD.

Aircraft: USAF UH-1F (tail number not currently available).

Pilot: Capt Albert Trumble, from Pierre, SD.

Co-Pilot: 2Lt. Marsha L. Allen, formerly of Duncanville, TX.

Passenger: SSgt Kenneth R. Gill, from Harvest, AL, (Comm Site Surveyor).

Location of crash: 15 miles NW of New Underwood, South Dakota (a rugged ravine in unpopulated rangeland).

Circumstances of crash: During a routine annual aerial survey of underground communication cables associated with 44th Strategic Missile Wing Minuteman II sites, at an altitude believed to be in the range of 500 feet AGL, components of the aircraft’s tail rotor assembly sheared off. A solitary distress call: “Mayday, Mayday. We have problems,” was recorded at the Ellsworth AFB tower at 11:07 A.M. Allen, believed then to have been in command of the aircraft, immediately instituted (with assistance from the pilot) emergency corrective measures to regain some amount of control over their descent for an emergency landing. Witnesses reported her using “throttle up, throttle down” procedures in an attempt to minimize the uncontrolled spin, and actually had the aircraft close to landing, when the main rotor made contact with a wall of the ravine. She managed to briefly achieve more altitude to find a more suitable landing spot, but upon making landing contact with the ground, the aircraft went inverted and the tail section broke off. Both the injured passenger and fatally-injured 2Lt Allen were outside the aircraft when help arrived by a second helicopter. It is believed Allen was killed by fragments of the rotating main blade. Pilot Trumble, who did not get thrown from the wreckage, sustained minor injuries. The site surveying passenger was listed in stable but serious condition at the Rapid City hospital the following morning.

2Lt Allen had arrived at Ellsworth AFB in December 1981, and had made her first solo flight on July 23rd, 1982. She was the base’s only female pilot and only the second female pilot in the Military Airlift Command at the time.

Comments from Bret S. Whitmore:” I am a former USAF historian (two tours) assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth AFB (1985-1986; 1993-1996), and prior to that, as a Security Policeman (Security Specialist) assigned to the 45th Missile Security Squadron (SAC) (1982-1985), flew as a Security Police Airborne Fire Team member with co-pilot in question, 2Lt. Marsha L. Allen, just weeks prior to her fatal accident.

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