People of Northwest Public Radio
Army Helicopter Crash
Mon April 30, 2012
Human Error Blamed In JBLM Midair Collision That Killed 4 In December
Pilot negligence - not a mechanical failure- led to a deadly midair crash last December of two Army helicopters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord . But poor communication and moonlight might also have been factors in the nighttime accident. Correspondent Austin Jenkins has details on an internal investigation released Monday.
On the night of December 12th last year, two Army instructor pilots took two junior aviators out for routine training. They boarded a pair of Kiowa Warrior helicopters and took off from Joint Base Lewis-McChord around 7pm. It was an almost full moon that night. The Army investigation says the moonlight might have made it hard for the pilots to see each other using Night Vision Goggles. Around 7:45pm one of the helicopters crossed the training area where the second helicopter was practicing low-altitude maneuvers. The two choppers collided killing all four aboard. The investigation faults the instructor in the first helicopter. He’d been warned of traffic in the area. But the Army air traffic controller could have done more too to warn the pilots. Could this tragedy have been avoided? The investigation found numerous reports over the years of problems with radio and radar communications in the wooded training area where the crash happened - problems that were never resolved.