Saturday, October 31, 2009

Deadly Week for US Military Aviators

This past week has been a brutal reminder that our military fliers are constantly exposed to danger, whether in a war zone, doing normal operations, or just training.

Thursday, a Coast Guard HC-130H collided with a Marine AH-1W off the Southern California coast, killing all 9 people on both aircraft. The USCG Hercules, s/n 1705, operating out of USCG Station Sacramento, was involved in search operations for a missing small boat. The Cobra, one of two escorting a pair of CH-53E troop transport helicopters, was operating out of Camp Pendleton on a routine training mission. The collision occurred at night. Extensive SAR efforts found debris, but no survivors.

On Wednesday, a Navy T-34C training aircraft, went down off the Texas coast. The two seat aircraft was on a training flight out of NAS Corpus Christi. As of late Friday, no trace of the aircraft or crew had been found.

Monday, two seperate accidents occurred in Afghanistan. There is no indication, at least so far, that enemy fire was the cause of either incident.

First, Marine AH-1W Cobra and UH-1N Huey aircraft collided in the southern part of the country, killing both on the Cobra and two of the four Marines on the huey.

Second, an Army CH-47D Chinook crashed during an anti-drug operation, while carrying service members, Afghan soldiers, and civilian (DEA/CIA) agents away at the conclusion of the operation. Seven US service members and 3 civilians on the chopper were killed. 26 more people were injured in the crash. Some reports state the chopper was under fire at the time, other reports say it was an accident.

Flying in the military is a dangerous game. No matter how much effort is given to safety, the nature and sheer amount of flying being done for operations and training mean that accidents will happen - no comfort to the loved ones of those who were lost, but it's the nature of the business.

Update - I missed one. A Navy TH-57C Jet Ranger training helicopter assigned to TAW-5 at NAS Whiting Field crashed near Milton, FL. The aircraft was on a normal training flight when it went down. Fortunately, both crew members got out with minor injuries.

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