Irish Times newspaper: Pilot error blamed for Black Hawk helicopter crash

Irish Times newspaper: Pilot error blamed for Black Hawk helicopter crash

(WAFB) - According to Irish Times, an investigation into the deadly Black Hawk helicopter crash that killed 11 off the coast of Florida in March has ruled that pilot error caused the crash.

Four Louisiana National Guardsmen from the 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment died in the training accident along with seven Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. One of the US Marines from Camp Lejeune was US special forces marine sergeant Liam Flynn, a native of Co Kildare, Ireland.

The newspaper says the main reason for the crash was "spatial disorientation" of both pilots in dense fog.

The investigation found that both Black Hawk pilots failed to switch from "visual meteorological conditions" where they had sufficient visibility to control the aircraft to "instrument meteorological conditions" where they would fly by the helicopter's instruments, according to the article.

"The report, commissioned by the commander of US Special Operations Command and the adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard, found the pilots of the crashed helicopter 'disobeyed a direct order' by choosing to fly in lower cloud and less visibility than permitted."

The article goes on to state:

The helicopter's data recorder and cockpit communication transcripts "showed increasingly erratic flight control inputs and anxious verbal exchanges as both pilots tried, yet failed, to gain control of the aircraft," the report said. The transcript shows Griffin saying shortly after take-off: "Gee it's dark as [expletive] – that don't help none."

"Wow, it's really dark," said crew chief, Staff Sergeant Lance Bergeron. "It's really sh**ty," said Griffin. The recording shows the crew raising concerns about whether they are high enough to clear trees, poles and wires below them.

After crossing the shore line over the water, Griffin remarked: "Yeah, it's too dark to see the [expletive] water."

The Black Hawk crashed at 8.21pm, five minutes after takeoff, and two minutes after flying out over the water, in the tidal sound – a narrow body of water between the Florida mainland and a barrier island – at a position one mile north of where it had taken off. "Watch out, we're in a bad right turn," Strother said just seconds before the helicopter crashed. The transcript then shows Strother calling on Griffin to "look down" and to "watch your altitude".

The report found that both pilots were "sounding very stressed" and that the stress increased until the crash. The pilots had made a last-minute attempt to engage the autopilot but the aircraft was "outside the required flight parameters and the autopilot failed," the report said.

It is likely that both were flying the aircraft when it crashed after Griffin relinquished the controls to Strother for about eight seconds before taking over again.

The Louisiana National Guard is expected to release information about the investigation on Thursday morning.

The commander of MARSOC, Major General Joseph L. Osterman, released a statement Wednesday evening:

"We've worked closely with the joint investigative teams that were convened from both a safety and general investigation perspective, and have cooperated closely with both the LAANG and US Army in those investigations. Both investigations were very thorough, complete and comprehensive. A senior officer from MARSOC personally briefed the primary next of kin of the Marines who perished in the crash on the findings of the investigations and their subsequent questions were researched and answered. We continue to ensure that the families have all available information relative to the accident and that any additional support they need is provided. We are grateful for the tremendous support the families of our fallen have received since the accident occurred."

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