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Sun, Apr 25, 2004

Just Dropping In... USMC Heli Makes Landing In Remote Riverbed

It wasn't what the locals were expecting... A CH-53D helicopter from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 made a precautionary landing in Togochi Town, Hiroshima Prefecture (Japan) April 15 at 2 p.m. The helicopter safely made the landing in the Ota Riverbed due to a malfunction with the CH-53D's first stage hydraulic system.

The helicopter departed from here at 12:55 p.m. and was returning from a routine training exercise. At approximately 2 p.m., the helicopter pilots noticed the problem and immediately looked for a safe site to land.

"We had time, within reason, to look for a place to land," said 1st Lt. Michael Smith, HMH-463 pilot. There was no immediate danger to the two pilots and two-man crew of the helicopter.

"Togochi is surrounded by mountains, which made it difficult to find a place to land. We made sure we landed in a safe area away from children or anybody," said Capt. Gregory T. Baker, HMH-463 pilot.

The Ota River, where the helicopter made the precautionary landing, is property of the Japanese government. Once it landed, Japanese officials arrived on the scene within minutes.

"Nobody was injured and no damage was done to either private or government property because of the landing here," said Taketoshi Hayashi, Hiroshima Prefectural's senior policeman.

At approximately 3:10 p.m., a maintenance recovery aircraft and crew departed from the Station with parts to repair the helicopter. In a matter of 30 minutes, the recovery crew fixed the malfunction. According Cpl. Seth Budimlija, HMH-463 airframes technician, "This type of malfunction is very rare." The last time Budimlija remembers a hydraulic malfunction like this was more than two years ago.

Japanese media and locals looked on with amazement behind the embankment of the river at the sight of the CH-53D helicopters. "The rural town is not accustomed to seeing such things," said Hayashi.

The CH-53D, along with the recovery aircraft, returned here at 4:45 p.m. No injuries to either the crew of the helicopter or Togochi locals occurred.

The helicopter is designed to transport personnel, equipment and supplies. It has been part of the Marine Corps inventory since 1964. [ANN Thanks Lance Cpl. Ruben D. Calderon]

FMI: www.usmc.mil

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