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Thu, Feb 24, 2005

Army Blames Crew for Blackhawk Crash

Seven Lost In Tower Collision

The Army blames the crew in the November 29th crash of a UH-60L Blackhawk for their decision to fly by visual flight rules in poor weather conditions.

The crash in foggy weather killed all seven on board, including Brigadier General Charles B. Allen, who was the Deputy Chief of the 4th Infantry Division.

The pilots of the aircraft, 32-year-old CWO-2 David H. Gardner, Jr., and 27-year-old CWO-2 Mark W. Evans, Jr., were killed in the mishap. Other soldiers killed in the crash were 26-year-old Capt. Todd T. Christmas, 48-year-old CWO-5 Douglas V. Clapp, and 29-year-old Specialist Richard L. Brown.

"The pilots flew the aircraft primarily under visual flight rules, but encountered instrument meteorological conditions at the time of the impact," the Army said in a prepared release "Evidence from the flight path, altitude, air traffic control communications, and weather reports at the time of the accident supported the investigating officer's conclusions."

Although completed on Jan 21st, details of the report were withheld until the victims' family members could be notified of the findings, according to media reports. The helicopter was on its way to Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, where those on board were to inspect vehicles scheduled to be shipped to Iraq.

The Fourth Infantry Division says its commander, Major General James D. Thurman, has disciplined the company and battalion commanders of the crew involved. The Company Commander was relieved of command. Even so, General Thurman stated "I remain confident in our Aviation Brigade's sound training programs, the professionalism of our aviators and in the combat readiness of our aircraft."

Darrell Meachum, southwest regional vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said the pilot contacted controllers at Waco Regional airport about 15 minutes after taking off from Fort Hood to request an instrument flight plan, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The pilot reported he was flying at 800 feet and asked to file an instrument flight plan, Meachum told the paper. The Waco air traffic controller requested the helicopter's position and the pilot said "Standby, sir," but did not call back to provide the information.

About five minutes later, the helicopter impacted a guy wire of the 1,800 ft tower leased by KXXV. Unfortunately, the tower lights had gone out the week before after a lighting storm. The FAA issued a NOTAM warning pilots of the inoperative lights on the tower.



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