Story by Staff Sgt. Erica Knight
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Aviation crews from the South Carlina Army National Guard conducted recovery operations Dec. 7, for a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to Det. 2, F Company, 1-171st General Support Aviation Battalion, that made an emergency landing in a corn field just outside of Columbia, South Carolina, Dec. 3.
Lt. Col. Andrew Batten, the state aviation officer with Army Operations, Training and Standardization, explained that the crew had been on an instrumentation flight at about 6,000 feet when they heard a bang and felt moderate vibrations that quickly became severe.
“We constantly train on emergency procedures and the specific responses to take in a rotor failure,” said Batten.
An Accident Investigation Board evaluated and documented the emergency landing site before releasing it to the South Carolina Guard for recovery operations.
“The first thing is damage assessment and making the determination of what method we can use to recover it,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jeff Bender, an aircraft maintenance officer with B Company, 642nd Aviation Support Battalion based at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, Eastover, S.C. “Here in South Carolina, we have all the equipment needed for almost any scenario.”
Due to the site conditions and damage to one of the rotor blades, crews decided to sling-load the roughly 11,000-pound Black Hawk underneath a CH-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to Det. 1, B Company, 2-238th General Aviation Support Battalion to McEntire for further inspections and the ongoing investigation.
Safety and maintenance crews removed the rotor blades and all of the fuel in the aircraft to prepare it for transport. Although this was a unique situation to have in South Carolina, the four aviation engineers supporting the recovery operations have almost 8,000 hours of flight experience between them.
“Ten years ago we were doing this exact type of operation in Iraq,” Bender said. “It’s a training opportunity for our younger Soldiers. We have elements from all of the aviation units in the South Carolina Guard to either observe or participate.”
A UH-72 Lakota assigned to A Company, 2-151st Security and Support Aviation Battalion accompanied the Chinook. Both helicopters flew in from the South Carolina National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility in Greenville, South Carolina.
“It looks simple when you do it right,” said Maj. Gen Robert E. Livingston, the adjutant general of the South Carolina National Guard. “This is what we do. It’s America’s military, Citizen-Soldiers.”