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Thu, Nov 24, 2022

Helicopter Crews Uninjured in San Diego Mid-Air Collision

Seahawk and Blackhawk Land Safely

Two helicopters—a U.S. Navy MH-60R Seahawk and a privately owned UH-60A Firehawk used by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to fight fires—suffered a mid-air collision over Brown Field (SDM) in San Diego's Otay Mesa neighborhood. The incident occurred Tuesday, 22 November 2022 at approximately 17:50 PST. Both aircraft and the entirety of their combined five crew-members—by dint of a baffling surfeit of good fortune—landed safely.

First responders from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and Cal Fire San Diego responded to reports of an aircraft accident at Brown Field just after 18:00 PST. The majority of the units were released shortly after arriving, however, on account of the incident’s providential outcome.

Navy officials report the two helicopters were taking part in a night training exercise.

Ensign Bryan Blair, spokesman for Commander, Naval Air Forces, summarized the incident thus: "Tonight, an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 41 made an emergency landing at Brown Field in San Diego after experiencing a collision with a helicopter assigned to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection during a flight for a night training event. Both aircraft landed safely and there were no injuries to personnel. The incident is under investigation.”

A San Diego Gas & Electric official added: "We have been made aware of the incident by our contractor who owns and operates the aircraft and the most important thing is that all parties are safe."

The FAA initially reported that the incident had involved a U.S. Forest Service firefighting aircraft. The agency later confirmed it had erred, conceding its own records showed N160AQ—the tail number of the non-Navy aircraft—is assigned to a privately owned helicopter contracted by SDG&E for firefighting purposes.

In an August 2019 press release, SDG&E described N160AQ as "an additional fire suppression helicopter [that] has been contracted for year-round, rapid response dispatch by CAL FIRE."

The extent to which the two helicopters were damaged in the collision remains unknown.

That part of Brown Field over which the incident occurred will remain closed at the discretion of FAA and NTSB investigators.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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