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Copter crash kills 2 pilots


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POSTED: Thursday, May 28, 2009

Two 25th Infantry Division aviators were killed yesterday afternoon when their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed in flames at Wheeler Army Airfield near Schofield Barracks.

               

     

 

TRAINING FATALITIES

        There have been two other major 25th Division helicopter crashes on Oahu:
       

» March 5, 1996: The pilot and co-pilot of an AH-1 Cobra gunship were killed at Schofield Barracks when the craft's engine failed.

       

» Feb. 12, 2001: Six soldiers were killed and 11 injured when two Black Hawk helicopters collided during a night training exercise over Kahuku in Hawaii's worst Army training accident.

       

 

       

They were the only two soldiers aboard the two-seat, 42-foot-long helicopter when it executed a “;hard landing”; about 3:30 p.m. while conducting a general maintenance test flight, Army officials said.

A civilian worker from the airfield who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was inside an office when he heard two explosions and went outside and saw the helicopter on fire.

Honolulu fire Capt. Earle Kealoha said firefighters responded to a call of a downed aircraft at 3:34 p.m. But when they arrived four minutes later, federal fire crews already had the fire under control.

The names of the two soldiers were withheld pending notification of relatives. Helicopter pilots are typically officers or warrant officers.

It was the third fatal helicopter crash at Schofield Barracks since 1996. The cause of the accident is under investigation, the Army said.

“;Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the two pilots,”; said Col. Matthew Margotta, commander of Army Garrison Hawaii.

Margotta characterized the incident as a hard landing because “;the pilots still had control of the aircraft when it landed.”;

When asked if hard landings usually end up this way, he responded with a firm “;No.”;

;[Preview]  Deadly Helicopter Crash In Wahiawa Kills Two Soldiers
 

Two soldiers are dead after a helicopter crashed on the tarmac at Wheeler Army Airfield.

Watch ]

 

The crumpled wreckage, the rotors bent from impact, lay on the east end of the airfield about 350 yards from Kamehameha Highway, visible in the distance to passing motorists. Foam that firefighters apparently sprayed remained visible, indicating that a fire had broken out.

“;The Kiowa helicopter was carrying two pilots,”; Margotta told reporters gathered across the highway from the airfield.

“;Unfortunately, both pilots were killed in the accident.”;

Carroll Cox, who was tending his garden across from the airfield, said someone with direct knowledge of the aircraft told him the helicopter was performing “;auto rotating,”; which is a simulated emergency landing.

The high-performance helicopter, whose reconnaissance missions can require it to fly terrain-hugging “;nap of the earth”; routes, is manufactured by Bell Helicopter Textron and had been slated to be replaced by the Comanche helicopter. But the Comanche program was scrapped in 2004.

Unlike earlier versions of the OH-58, which date back to the Vietnam War, the D model is an armed scout.

The helicopter was assigned to the division's 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, which is preparing for a 12-month deployment to Iraq scheduled to begin in October. The unit flies CH-47 Chinooks, UH-60 Black Hawks and OH-58 Kiowa Warriors.

The unit served an Iraq combat tour in 2006-07 and in Afghanistan in 2003-04.

The brigade just completed a comprehensive training period here and at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in the Mojave Desert in preparation for deployment to Iraq.

At the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area, the brigade said, it logged more than 2,000 hours, encompassing 669 flights without an accident.

The brigade commander is Col. Michael Lundy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.