02 August 2000
On 02 Aug 00, at 1:15 a.m. local Mildenhall time, and MH-53M Helicopter, Tail #69-5784 crashed on Stanford Range, a Ministry of Defense training area, 13.9 miles northeast of RAF Mildenhall (RAFM), United Kingdom (UK), at coordinates N5226.84 and E00049.06. The helicopter was assigned to the 21st Special Operations Squadron, 352nd Special Operations Group, RAFM, UK. The mishap aircraft was the number two of a three-ship formation training flight. When the mishap occurred, the mishap aircraft was leading the formation in night formation landings using night vision goggles. The mishap aircraft crashed in its designated landing zone (LZ). All crewmembers received only minor injuries. There was significant damage to the aircraft. No damage to private property was reported.
The LZ was a large, level, open field, surrounded by trees. The LZ surface was covered with grass and ferns, approximately two to three feet high.
According to crew testimony, the pilot flew a normal approach, brought the aircraft to a hover, approximately 30 feet above the ground, and then began to lower the aircraft. Having received "cleared to land" signals from the right, left and tail crew positions, the pilote continued the descent. The aircraft landed in a depression that was eight feet deep and eighty-three feet wide, and the tail rotor impacted the ground.
The Board President determined that the mishap resulted from the aircrew's inability to observe the previously unmarked depression as the aircraft made its descent.
AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION