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Army looks into cause of copter's fatal crash


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POSTED: Friday, May 29, 2009

Army investigators have begun the tedious task of trying to determine the cause of an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter crash that took the lives of two Schofield Barracks aviators at Wheeler Army Airfield this week.

As in past incidents, the investigation is expected to be led by officials from the U.S. Army Safety Center in Fort Rucker, Ala.

Two aviators assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade were performing a general- maintenance test flight when the two-man aircraft made a “;hard landing”; at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday on the runway. Neither pilot survived the crash—the third fatal helicopter crash at Schofield Barracks since 1996.

The two fliers have not been identified by the Army.

The brigade and its helicopters are slated to leave for Iraq for its third combat tour in October and will be assigned to Tikrit-based Multi-National Division-North.

All of the brigade's Kiowa helicopters are assigned to its 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry “;Lightning Horse”; Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Kenneth Hawley.

The Army's OH-58D helicopter is a single-engine, double-rotor craft that was put in service in 1991 to replace the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter in some units. Other models of the Kiowa, however, have been in continuous use by the Army since 1969. Four of these Kiowa models are flown by a Hawaii Army National Guard unit stationed on the Big Island.

Bell Helicopter originally manufactured the 34-foot OH-58 for the Army, based on the 206A JetRanger helicopter.

There are about 375 OH-58D Kiowa Warriors now in service.

The primary mission of the helicopter is in a scout-attack role.

It was the first Army helicopter to have an all-glass cockpit, where the pilot sits on the right side to fly the aircraft. The left-seat pilot operates the mast-mounted sight, which is a low-light-television, thermal-imaging system and laser range finder/designator located above the rotor. The mast-mounted sight system allows the helicopter to operate at day and night.

It is capable of transporting cargo weighing up to 2,000 pounds.

The Army's fleet of OH-58D Kiowa Warriors was supposed to be replaced by the next-generation armed reconnaissance helicopter, the ARH-70 Arapaho—a military version of the Bell 407 built by Bell.

However, excessive delays and cost overruns forced the cancellation of the four-bladed, single-engine Arapaho in October.