USMC Copter Crash kills seven

No Comments

San Diego, CA. A collision that killed seven Marines in one of the Marine Corps’ deadliest aviation training accidents in years occurred over a sprawling desert range favored by the U.S. military because its craggy mountains and hot, dusty conditions are similar to Afghanistan’s harsh environment.

Officials were scrambling Thursday to determine what caused the AH-1W Cobra and UH-1 Huey to crash during a routine exercise Wednesday night when skies were clear and the weather was mild.

There were no survivors in the accident near the Chocolate Mountains along the California-Arizona border.

It was the fifth aviation mishap since March involving the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing headquartered at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego. Throughout the Navy and Marine Corp, there have only been two other aviation training accidents in the past five years involving seven or more deaths, according to the military’s Naval Safety Center.

“It’s an unfortunate consequence of the high tempo of operations,” said retired Marine Col. J.F. Joseph, an aviation safety consultant. “They’re out there working on the edge trying to exploit the maximum capabilities of the aircraft and their tactics. Just by the virtue of that, in becoming combat ready, these unfortunately are not uncommon occurrences.”

The Marine Corps and Navy, nonetheless, stand out in their efforts to mitigate that risk and make training as safe as possible, he said.

With 17,500 Marines and sailors, including personnel stationed at Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing conducts hundreds of aviation training exercises a year so troops can get as much experience as possible before they go to war.

The number of Marines killed in the latest crash shook the military community. Chaplains and counselors were called in to talk to troops. Six of the Marines killed were from Pendleton — the West Coast’s largest base — and one was from the base in Yuma.

Their identities will not be released until their families have all been notified.

Two of the Marines were aboard an AH-1W Cobra and the rest were in a UH-1 Huey utility helicopter. They were flying in a remote section of the 1.2 million-acre Yuma Training Range Complex as part of a two-week standard training called “Scorpion Fire” that involved a squadron of about 450 troops from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

The helicopters collided near dunes at the edge of the Yuma range about an hour before the range was to shut down for the evening. Ground troops were in the area, but they were not affected, said Gunnery Sgt. Dustin Dunk, a spokesman at the Yuma base, which is a 90-minute drive from the accident site.

Part of the exercise involved having helicopters low on fuel descend to ground troops that have set up a refueling outpost, Dunk said.

He did not know if that’s what the pilots were doing at the time of the crash.

“Our training is always evolving, safety is paramount, and being prepared is paramount,” he said. “It was a very standard exercise for what we do. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family members … Our investigation will look to see what went wrong and how to correct it.”

The AH-1W carries a pilot and gunner and is considered the Marine Corps’ main attack helicopter. The UH-1Y, which is replacing the aging version of the Huey utility helicopter first used during the Vietnam War, carries one or two pilots, a crew chief and other crew members, depending on the mission.

Hueys often are used to pick up and drop off ground crews, while Cobras hover by ready to fire if the Huey comes under attack.

In other crashes in the past year, a twin-engine, two-seat AH-1W Cobra helicopter went down in September during training in a remote area of Camp Pendleton, killing two Marine pilots and igniting a brush fire that burned about 120 acres at the base north of San Diego.

In August, two Marines were ejected from their F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet as it plunged toward the Pacific Ocean. The two Marines spent four hours in the dark, chilly ocean before they were rescued. Both suffered broken bones but survived.

In July, a decorated Marine from western New York was killed during a training exercise when his UH-1Y helicopter went down in a remote section of Camp Pendleton.

Another Hornet sustained at least $1 million damage when its engine caught fire on March 30 aboard the USS John C. Stennis during an exercise about 100 miles off the San Diego coast. Eight sailors, a Marine and two civilians were injured.

In one of the worst accidents in the past five years, an AH1-W flying in formation with three other Marine helicopters on a nighttime training mission from Camp Pendleton to San Clemente Island collided with a Coast Guard C-130 airplane in October 2009, killing two aboard the Marine helicopters and seven aboard the C-130.

Military crash near US base in Africa kills four


NAIROBI, Kenya – An American reconnaissance plane crashed 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the only U.S. base in Africa, killing four service members on board, after returning from a mission in support of the war in Afghanistan, the military said Monday.

The statement said that the crash occurred at about 8 p.m. Saturday in Djibouti. U.S. personnel from Camp Lemonnier in the tiny Horn of Africa nation responded to the scene.

Specialist Ryan Whitney of the 1st Special Operations Wing said that initial indications are that the reconnaissance plane did not crash because of hostile fire. The plane was conducting an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, he said. A statement from U.S. Africa Command called it a “routine” flight.

Amy Oliver, public affairs director of the Air Force 1st Special Operations Wing, said the single-engine, fixed-wing U-28A was returning from a mission in support of the Afghanistan war.

The cause of the U-28A crash is under investigation. Camp Lemonnier lies only miles from the border with Somalia.

The four killed in the crash included: Capt. Ryan P. Hall, 30, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the 319th Special Operations Squadron; Capt. Nicholas S. Whitlock, 29, of Newnan, Georgia, with the 34th Special Operations Squadron; 1st Lt. Justin J. Wilkens, 26, of Bend, Oregon, with the 34th Special Operations Squadron; and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten, 26, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, with the 25th Intelligence Squadron.

Hall was a U-28 pilot with more than 1,300 combat flight hours. He was assigned to the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

USAF A-10 crashes, pilot ejects

No Comments

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE — An Air Force A-10C pilot assigned to the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base ejected from the aircraft moments before it crashed during a routine mission at approximately 2:45 p.m. Monday in a non-residential area in Cook County.

The pilot was transported by ambulance to Memorial Hospital of Adel for medical evaluation.

Moody and Cook County emergency response personnel were dispatched and proceeded to the accident scene, where reportedly the aircraft and surrounding area were burning.

Area resident Dale Warlick lives nearby and gave his account of the accident.

“I’m wondering if it was a bolt of lightning or something. I was in my house when I heard the pop and ran out and saw the plane,” said Warlick. “He was low flying at the time. I knew the plane was going down but thought there wasn’t any good spot for him to land back there (behind his house). ”

Another nearby resident, Larry Taylor, rode out on a golf cart with his nephew to check on the accident.

When Taylor and his nephew arrived on the scene, an ambulance was already present, along with law enforcement officials. He said the pilot was in a small clearing in what used to be a Scruggs Concrete Inc. sandpit with his parachute lying at his feet. Taylor ended up transporting the pilot and emergency staffers back to the main road in his golf cart.

“(The pilot)  said that both engines quit; he said he coasted for two miles apparently,” said Taylor. “He seemed shaken up, but was laughing and carrying on. He was shaken up, but that seemed natural considering what happened.”

According to Taylor, the A-10‘s wingmate circled the crash site for about an hour at low speed and low altitude. Taylor said he could see the pilot in the cockpit while he circled.

The incident is still under investigation.

Col. Billy D. Thompson, commander of the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, provided a few scant details during a press conference Monday at approximately 8:25 p.m.

According to Thompson, the pilot is in stable condition and is currently located at the MAFB Flight Clinic.

“Over the next few weeks, a trained safety investigation board will focus their exclusive efforts on collecting and protecting evidence from the scene, gathering and analyzing all relevant data with the specific purpose of preventing future mishaps,” said Thompson. “As commander of this wing, the safety of the local community and our airmen is one of my top priorities.”

The name of the pilot has not been released in order to preserve the interests of the family, Thompson said.

Thompson confirmed that there were two aircraft units, although he did not clarify specifics on the location or whether an explosion or fire was involved with the incident. He also failed to disclose information about the cost of the aircraft, whether the aircraft would be salvageable or when press would be allowed to photograph the scene.

Thompson also claimed to have no information about the training of the pilot or whether a distress call was made. He also said he had no information about the pilot’s medical condition, nor did he release any information about the mission of the pilot.

“We do as part of the initial response, we have environmental officers from Moody Air Force Base that will assess the site and make a recommendation on that,” said Thompson. “The final report should take 60 days; really don’t know how long cleanup could take.”

“I do not know where the aircraft’s at,” said Thompson. “The A-10, as a whole, is a highly reliable aircraft. The A-10 is a wonderfully reliable aircraft. All of our aircraft are obviously inspected before each flight, but I don’t have any further data at this point.”

Experts say Reno crash likely caused by pilot falling unconscious

1 Comment

The veteran aviator whose P-51 Mustang plane slammed into a crowd of Nevada air race spectators at 400 mph had no chance to save his ill-fated flight after likely losing consciousness from acceleration more abrupt and extreme than even what most fighter pilots endure, flying experts said.

Jimmy Leeward’s Mustang aircraft shot skyward like a rocket Friday before plunging into spectators at what appeared to be full throttle. Federal investigators continue to look for a cause of the crash at the National Championship Air Races that killed 11 people, including Leeward, and injured dozens, but have yet to come to a conclusion, something that could take months.

They’re focused on a range of possibilities, including Leeward’s health and the structural soundness of the plane after a piece of the tail called the “elevator trim tab” that helps control the aircraft’s pitch appeared to break off before the crash.

While some have called Leeward heroic for making a last-ditch maneuver around crowded stands, experts who have reviewed multiple amateur videos from the scene, photographs and witness accounts, doubt that theory. They say it appears Leeward wasn’t controlling the plane during the fateful last few seconds.

“He’s not there. He’s unconscious,” said Ernie Christensen, a retired rear admiral and former Vietnam fighter pilot who commanded the Navy’s Top Gun fighter school for a time in the 1980s.

Christensen said one key clue that Leeward wasn’t at the controls is the fact that his highly modified P-51 Mustang appeared to hit the ground at full throttle.

“The first thing you do when you get into those conditions is pull power, and that plane hit fast,” he said. “The power was up and that’s an indication he was not in control of the airplane when it hit.”

Leeward was midway through the Unlimited Gold heat race Friday when he narrowly missed the grandstands packed with fans and jerked into a steep climb at up to 500 mph, streaking skyward possibly a thousand feet or more before twirling and speeding into the ground.

Friday’s crash was the nation’s deadliest air racing disaster, with 11 confirmed dead and 14 others still being treated at Reno hospitals. In all, more than 70 people were admitted for injuries after the crashing plane sprayed shrapnel into the crowd of spectators, cutting limbs and other body parts.

Twenty pilots, including Leeward, have died at the races over the past 47 years, but this was the first time fans were killed.

Christensen said if Leeward were conscious, he would have cut power back once he gained altitude.

“Altitude is sanctuary,” he said.

“And his nose didn’t hang, it came over like he was doing almost a loop … and when his nose came down he started gaining air speed,” Christensen added. “This guy had the power up.”

Rough calculations by experts using video of the P-51 plane seconds before the crash indicate it might have been traveling at more than 400 mph when it suddenly went vertical, abruptly exerting 11 times the normal force of gravity on the pilot’s body, or 11 Gs, knocking him unconscious as the blood rushed from his brain.

By comparison, Christensen said, F-16 fighter pilots, who wear special suits to counter the G-forces, can typically take 9 Gs, but only for a limited time. And those are modern planes designed with tilted seats intended to help keep blood flow to the brain.

Average roller coasters expose riders to about 2 to 3 Gs, but only for brief moments.

Ken Liano, a structural engineer and aircraft consultant, said “it’s highly doubtful” Leeward was awake.

“My first thought when I saw the video was there’s no way that pilot is in control,” Liano said. “He went from horizontal to vertical so abruptly. No pilot would do that. Even an acrobatic pilot would probably not do that maneuver.”

Liano speculated the loss of the trim tab started the sequence of events. Leeward’s World War II-era plane was highly modified for speed, much like other aircraft at the races. But the plane wasn’t originally designed that way, so the extra speed gained from the modifications likely stressed the structure, causing the failure, he said.

“Eleven Gs is a lot,” said Dr. Daniel Foster, an active duty flight surgeon at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida. “It probably would have been very difficult for him to maintain consciousness.”

He said fighter pilots train to combat the G-forces using abdominal exercises, among other things, to keep the blood in their heads.

Typically, as the forces increase, Foster said, symptoms will gradually appear, such as nausea, faintness, then cloudy vision, and there’s time to work to counteract the impact on the body.

But if the extreme acceleration comes on suddenly, and is prolonged, such as the case with Leeward, “it can be very rapid,” Foster said. “You’d go from zero to unconscious.”

2 marines perished at US base chopper crash

No Comments

An AH-1W Cobra helicopter that went down during a training exercise at southern California’s Camp Pendleton killed the two Marines onboard and set off a fast-moving brush fire on the base on Monday.

The blaze burned 48.6 hectares and was 80 per cent contained on Monday evening, a base statement said.

The 1pm wreck involved a twin-engine, two-seat AH-1W Cobra attack helicopter belonging to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, a Marine Corps statement said. It crashed in the southeast corner of the base near the community of Fallbrook.

The fire grew quickly after the crash, spreading to 20ha three hours after the helicopter went down. It was moving near the base’s border with the town of De Luz, the Marine Corps statement said.

The Marines died at the scene. Their names won’t be released until their families have been notified, officials said.

Several accidents have happened in recent months involving Marine Corps training in Southern California, including a fatal accident in July.

In August, two Marines were ejected from their F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet as it plunged toward the Pacific Ocean. The two Marines spent four hours in the dark, chilly ocean before they were rescued. Both suffered broken bones and are undergoing rehabilitation at a San Diego hospital.

In July, a decorated Marine from western New York was killed during a training exercise when his UH-1Y helicopter went down in a remote section of Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego.

Another Hornet sustained at least $US1 million ($A980,200) damage when its engine caught fire on March 30 aboard the USS John C. Stennis during a training exercise about 161km off the San Diego coast. Eight sailors, a Marine and two civilians were injured.

The Navy has said debris in the engine is the suspected cause of that fire.

Navy SEALs helicopter crash in Afghanistan

No Comments

Two U.S. officials said yesterday, Sunday, that the 30 American service members — most of them elite Navy SEALs — who died when their helicopter was shot down had rushed to help Army Rangers who had come under fire.

The heavy loss shows that clandestine tactics carry huge risks despite the huge success of the SEAL mission that killed Osama bin Laden more than three months ago. Most of the SEALs who died Saturday were from the same unit that killed bin Laden, although none of the men took part in that mission.

The U.S.-led coalition plans to rely more on special operations missions as it reduces the overall number of combat troops by the end of 2014.

There were conflicting accounts late Sunday as to whether the SEAL team had subdued the attackers who had pinned down the Rangers and were departing, or whether they were hit as they tried to land. One official said they had accomplished their mission, but another said the aircraft, a Chinook helicopter, was hit as it approached.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still ongoing.

Thirty Americans and eight Afghans — seven commandos and a civilian translator — were killed in the crash, making it the deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the decade-long war in Afghanistan. The Rangers, special operations forces who work regularly with the SEALs, secured the crash site in the Tangi Joy Zarin area of Wardak province, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Kabul, the other official said.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the event, as the investigation is still ongoing. The SEAL mission was first reported by CNN.

NATO was recovering the remains of the twin rotor Chinook helicopter. A current and a former U.S. official said the Americans included 22 SEALs, three Air Force members and a dog handler and his dog. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because military officials were still notifying the families of the dead.

All but two of the SEALs were from SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed bin Laden, U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Eight Taliban fighters were also killed in the battle, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement.

Afghanistan has more U.S. special operations troops, about 10,000, than any other theater of war. The forces, often joined by Afghan troops, are among the most effective weapons in the coalition’s arsenal, conducting surveillance, infiltration and capture missions and night raids.

From April to July this year, 2,832 special operations raids captured 2,941 insurgents and killed 834, twice as many as during the same time period last year, according to NATO.

SEALs, Rangers, and other special operations troops are expected to be the vanguard of the American military effort in Afghanistan as international military forces start pulling out. By the time combat troops plan to have left the country, the coalition will have handed control of security to the Afghan forces they have spent tens of billions of dollars arming and training.

Special operations troops are expected to remain in the country after 2014 for counterterrorism missions and advisory support. Just how many will remain has not yet been negotiated with the Afghan government, but the United States is considering from 5,000 to 20,000, far fewer than the 100,000 U.S. troops there now.

Special operations forces are frequently used to target insurgent commanders as part of an effort to force the Taliban’s leadership to agree to a negotiated peace. The operations, mostly in the form of night raids, are often carried out by Afghan and coalition special operations forces.

Night raids have drawn criticism from human rights activists and infuriated Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who says they anger and alienate the Afghan population.

But NATO commanders have said the raids are safer for civilians than relatively imprecise airstrikes.

As U.S. forces removed the wreckage Sunday, nearby Afghan and NATO forces battled insurgents as they carried out clearing operations in the areas around the crash site, a region that is just a stone’s throw from the capital. The province, which borders Kabul, has increasingly come under Taliban control in recent months — even as the U.S.-led coalition has begun handing over security for parts of Afghanistan over to the government of President Hamid Karzai.

“There have been a small number of limited engagements in the same district” as Saturday’s helicopter crash, NATO said in a statement. “However those clashes have not been in the direct vicinity of the crash site. As of now, we have no reporting to indicate any coalition casualties resulting from these engagements.”

Morocco C-130 crash kills 78


Seventy-eight people were killed when a Moroccan C-130 military aircraft crashed into a mountain in the south of the country last Tuesday, army says.

The C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed near Guelmim, just north of the disputed Western Sahara territory. Officials have blamed the accident on poor weather. The army said three other people were severely wounded in the crash, in what is thought to be one of Morocco’s deadliest air disasters in years.

“Above all, it was the fog and bad weather conditions that are believed to be behind this accident. But for the moment, we don’t have enough information,” AFP news agency quoted an official from the interior ministry as saying.

The C-130 plane was travelling from Dakhla, in the Western Sahara, to Kinitra in northern Morocco. The aircraft was carrying 81 people: nine crew members, 60 troops and 12 civilians.The search team has found forty-two bodies so far.

King Mohammed VI has declared three days of national mourning and ordered that prayers of remembrance be held on Friday in all mosques.

Source: BBC News

Newly installed parachute saved attorney from plane crash

1 Comment

New details are emerging about a plane crash last Monday, in which a prominent Ashland attorney escaped with his life.

Those details of his harrowing fall from the sky and how he survived come from his family.

John Booth Farese returned to his home in Ashland Tuesday after an overnight stay at The Med in Memphis.

Family members say his survival is nothing short of a miracle.

Those who know him best say John Booth Farese never saw a gadget he didn’t like or didn’t have to have eventually.

An aircraft pilot for decades, Farese recently bought a parachute system to help him, and his passengers survive a plane crash.

His brother, Steve Farese, says that parachute saved him from an almost certain death. “You know, I’m old enough where supposedly nothing could surprise me, but yeah, it’s a miracle he survived.”

As in formal chief technology officer for the family law firm, John Booth was an early adopter of all things electronic.

Known as “Captain Kirk” around the office, he brought radio phone technology to the firm and many other technological improvements.

The parachute, only just installed, became his savior when his Cessna 182 plane’s engine suddenly stopped.

“He had only gotten up to about three hundred feet when his engine stopped, so he only had a split-second timing to make a decision. He said he’s lost all control he was auguring in nose first and he had just been briefed on the parachute.” Said Steve Farese.

It’s believed the parachute had only deployed about 80 percent before Farese’s Cessna 182 hit a wooded area in Marshall County off Bicycle Road.

It may not have slowed his descent very much do to it’s low altitude, but Marshall County Sheriff Kenny Dickerson says it was enough. I’ve seen pilots and passengers killed with a lot less damage than what this plane had occurred.”

So you might say, technology saved John Booth Farese.

His Brother says it all goes back to his childhood in the Boy Scouts.”That’s the way he is, and I think his Boy Scout attitude, he was an Eagle Scout and a Scoutmaster that he likes to be prepared.”

John Booth Farese suffered no broken bones in the crash but he was pretty banged up with a big knot on his head, and he remains in a back brace.

Experimental aircraft crashes, no fatalities

No Comments

On Apr. 23, two people were on board a small airplane that crashed in Owyhee County. Luckily, both of them were able to walk away with no serious injuries.

It all happened at about 11:45 a.m. near the Sunrise Skypark, a residential airport community 12 miles south of Marsing.

“I just heard the plane sputtering and trying to get power,” said Mike Alexander. He lives near the crash site and saw it happen. “Then, he porpoised once. You heard that last little sputter and then saw him go in.”

Alexander said the RV-6 experimental aircraft lost power shortly after takeoff, and did a brief cartwheel before coming to rest in the field.

“Told my son to call 911, grab some fire extinguishers and then I came down,” said Alexander.

The man and woman aboard escaped without serious injuries, although the woman was visibly shaken.

“He was just getting her out of the plane as I came down,” said Alexander. “Took her over there, and laid her down, see if she could move her legs. She had a burn across her neck where the strap had caught her. But that was about it.”

The pilot told people that he had built the plane himself. He said it took him about 4 years, and that it had been flying fine for about a year.

Despite the small size of the plane, the man installed shoulder harnesses, instead of just lap seatbelts. An airplane mechanic on the scene said those kept the couple from going through the windshield, and probably saved their lives.

“They walked away,” said Alexander.

Alexander also happens to be an F-15 mechanic. He said he couldn’t comment on the safety of experimental aircraft. However, he did say he’d trust something that he put together himself, but not something someone else put together.

The Owyhee County Sheriff’s Department has now turned over the crash investigation to the FAA.

Pilot killed as Yak-52 crashed during airshow



A single-engine Yak 52 plane from the Red Thunder Air Show team crashed on Saturday afternoon, leaving the pilot dead.

The Pilot, Bill Walker, 58, known as “Wild Bill” in flying circles, was from Cookeville, Tennessee and was part of the Red Thunder Air Show team. The Red Thunder team is made up of six members from South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Louisiana. “We all meet in a little place down here in northern Alabama called Courtland.

Matt Barron has been watching the maneuvers said, “The one plane was doing a loop and the other one was going straight down. He just fell out of the sky, straight down.”

“The two planes were doing the same thing, they were doing a maneuver,” said Jay Gardner, the Flagler County property appraiser. “They were trying to pull up, he flew straight into the ground.”

An hour later, firefighters were at the scene containing a brush fire that had erupted as a consequences of the crash.

The organizer of the second annual Wings Over Flagler fly-in, Bill Mills expressed his thoughts moments before he was to speak for the first time since the crash to a gathering of the show’s pilots in a VIP tent. “Obviously a tragedy on an absolutely fabulous day here. One of the premier events for Flagler has unfortunately been tainted by a tragedy, and we’re all extremely sad for our pilot friend, and may God rest his soul.”

The Yakovlev Yak-52 is a Soviet primary trainer aircraft which first flew in 1976. It is still being produced in Romania by Aerostar, which gained manufacturing rights under agreement within the now defunct COMECON socialist trade organisation. The Yak-52 was designed originally as an aerobatic trainer for students in the Soviet DOSAAF training organisation, which trained both civilian sport pilots and military pilots.

Flagler County's Fire Flight helicopter was called to drop buckets of water on the crash scene.

Original article and photo  from , aircraft information from

Older Entries