DEADLIEST DAY FOR
U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ
Air crashes in
war zone had already
killed 7 with isle ties
Before yesterday's deadly crash, seven soldiers with Hawaii ties had died in helicopter crashes in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The most recent was on Oct. 16 when two Hawaii-based soldiers were killed when their OH-58D Kiowa helicopter collided with another southwest of Baghdad. Capt. Christopher B. Johnson, 29, of Excelsior Springs, Mo., and Chief Warrant Officer William I. Brennan, 36, of Bethlehem, Conn., were both assigned to the 25th Infantry Division.
Two months earlier, 30-year-old Sgt. Daniel Lee Galvan of Moore, Okla., was killed when the UH-60 Black Hawk in which he served as a crew chief crashed in Afghanistan's Khowst province. Military investigators ruled the crash an accident. Galvan was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment.
Others with Hawaii ties killed in helicopter crashes were:
» Chief Warrant Officer Ian D. Manuel, 23, of Jacksonville, Fla., who was killed on Jan. 8, 2004, when the Black Hawk helicopter medevac helicopter he piloted was shot down while over Fallujah. Manuel was one of nine soldiers killed in the attack. Born in Honolulu, Manuel grew up in Maryland and Florida. He was assigned to the 571st Air Ambulance Company of Fort Carson, Colo.
» Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Martin Liberato Bolor of Maui, killed just two months earlier when two Black Hawk helicopter collided. Bolor was one of 17 Kentucky-based soldiers killed in the crash.
Also killed in the crash was Lt. Jeremy L. Wolfe, 27, of Menomonie, Wis. He was the pilot of one of the Black Hawks that crashed -- the one that carried Bolor -- and graduated from Hawaii Pacific University in 2002. He was commissioned through the University of Hawaii Army ROTC program.
» Chief Warrant Officer Sharon T. Swartworth was killed on Nov. 7, 2003, when the Black Hawk helicopter in which she had been a passenger was shot down. Swartworth, 43, was an official with the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps. She had planned to retire in a few months in Mililani with her husband, a Pearl Harbor doctor, and their 8-year-old son.
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crashes in Iraq war
A CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopter crashes in bad weather in western Iraq, killing at least 31 Marines aboard. Twenty-seven on board were attached to the Marine base in Kaneohe.
An AH-64 Apache attack helicopter collides with a UH-60 Black Hawk that is on the ground at an air base in Mosul, killing two U.S. soldiers and injuring four.
Two OH-58 Kiowa helicopters crash in southwestern Baghdad, killing two and wounding two. It is unclear whether hostile fire brought the aircraft down.
Gunmen shoot down an Apache attack helicopter in western Baghdad, killing its two crew members.
A Kiowa crashes in a river west of Baghdad, killing the two crew members on board. A witness saw a missile hit one of two helicopters in the area.
A Kiowa crashes near the northern town of Qayyarah, killing the two pilots. The cause of the crash is unclear.
A Black Hawk medevac helicopter crashes near Fallujah, killing all nine soldiers on board. A witness said a rocket hit the tail.
A Kiowa is shot down near Fallujah, killing its pilot and wounding another soldier.
Two Black Hawks crash in Mosul, killing 17 soldiers and injuring five. The military says the helicopters collided during a likely rocket-propelled grenade attack.
A Black Hawk is downed near Tikrit, apparently by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing all six on board.
A Chinook transport helicopter is shot down near Fallujah, killing 16 and injuring 26. The military believes an SA-7 shoulder-fired missile struck an engine.
A CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopter crashes shortly after takeoff in the Shat al-Hillah Canal in Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, killing four Marines. Another Marine drowns trying to rescue them. The crash appears to be accidental.
A Black Hawk crashes near Samarra, killing three soldiers, in an apparent accident.
A Sea Knight crashes in Kuwait, about nine miles from the Iraqi border, killing eight British troops and four U.S. Marines. No hostile fire was reported in the area.
Source: Associated Press
Aging Super Stallion
lifts heavy loads
at $14,000 an hour
A deadly crash focuses new
attention on a craft that
is difficult to keep in
good working order
WASHINGTON » The CH-53E Super Stallion is a Marine Corps workhorse that requires a lot of care and attention to stay in the sky.
Marine officials said one of the helicopters went down in bad weather yesterday in western Iraq, killing 30 Marines and a sailor. It was the greatest loss of life for the Marines since the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 241 people, including 220 Marines.
Officials did not describe what weather may have brought it down, but NASA satellite photos of the region suggested western Iraq was facing dust or sandstorms.
"It's a dangerous environment that we operate in in Iraq. We all understand that," said Army Gen. John Abizaid, who was testifying on Capitol Hill.
The helicopter, the largest in the U.S. military inventory, is used to haul heavy cargo or dozens of troops. It has seen action around the world.
But the military plans to replace the Super Stallion with a helicopter that is easier to maintain, said John Milliman, a spokesman for the Naval Air Systems Command. For every hour the Super Stallion flies, it requires 44 man-hours of maintenance, he said.
Built by Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., the three-engine helicopters cost $39 million apiece when the last one was delivered in 2003. It costs $14,000 an hour to fly, Milliman said.
The Super Stallion is operated by a crew of three and can be configured to carry as many as 55 people.
Before yesterday the Marines had 151 CH-53Es, he said. The average CH-53E in the Marines' inventory is almost 16 years old. The oldest in the fleet was built in 1980; the newest, in 1999.
It is a variant of a Vietnam War-era design. The Marines also fly an older model, the CH-53D, which is
slated to be replaced by the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.
The Navy flies the MH-53, a variant suited for minesweeping, and the Air Force flies a special-operations model.
The CH-53Es were temporarily grounded in 1996 and again in 2000 after crashes.
"It's an awfully big helicopter. It's got a lot of things on it that can break," said John Pike, a military expert at globalsecurity.org. "The thing has had safety problems."
Military officials said the CH-53's safety record is on par with other Marine Corps aircraft.
In some other incidents:
» On Tuesday a Navy MH-53E Sea Dragon ditched in the Atlantic off the coast of Virginia, officials said. All eight people on board were rescued.
» On Aug. 13, 2004, two Marines were killed when a CH-53 crashed in Anbar province. The cause of the crash is unclear. Officials said at the time no enemy fire was seen.
» A German CH-53 crashed in Afghanistan in December 2002, killing seven. The crash was blamed on a faulty reassembly of the helicopter after it was shipped to the war zone.
» On Jan. 20, 2002, two Marines were killed when their Super Stallion helicopter crashed while on a resupply mission in Afghanistan. Five other Marines were injured.
Although most of the U.S. military deaths in Iraq have come during ground fighting and ambushes, some of the most spectacular and deadly incidents since the U.S.-led invasion have involved helicopters.
On Nov. 15, 2003, two Army UH-60 Black Hawks crashed in Mosul, killing 17 soldiers and injuring five.
The military said the helicopters collided during what was probably a rocket-propelled grenade attack. On Nov. 2, a CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter was shot down near Fallujah, killing 16 and injuring 26. The military believed a shoulder-fired missile struck an engine.