Edwards AFB, CA.
10 October 1991
UH-1N #69-6634 of the 6512th Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, CA. disintegrated and caught fire at about 8,000 and crashed while on a routine parachute training mission. Killed in the crash were Capt. Jay David Burdett (P), SSgt. John R. Anderson (Aerial photographer), SSgt. Kurt H. Ellington (Survival Instructor) and two other crew members were thrown free of the helicopter an parachuted to safety.
3 Killed, 2 Injured in Crash of Helicopter at Edwards Air Force Base
October 11, 1991|JOHN CHANDLER and SEBASTIAN ROTELLA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS
An Air Force helicopter crashed Thursday during a parachute training mission at Edwards Air Force Base, killing three of the five people aboard and injuring the two others, officials said.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known. It was the second incident of its kind involving an Air Force UH-1N Huey helicopter this year at the sprawling desert base about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
A Huey search and rescue helicopter crashed on a night training mission Jan. 14, killing two crew members and injuring two others.
Edwards officials did not release the identities of the crew members on the helicopter involved in Thursday's crash, pending notification of relatives. The helicopter was one of only three of its kind used by the Air Force at Edwards.
The two survivors parachuted from the aircraft. Rescuers found them walking in the desert about half a mile from the grove of Joshua trees where the helicopter crashed and caught fire about 9 a.m. The pair, described as experienced jumpers receiving advanced training, were treated at the base hospital for minor injuries.
The twin-engine helicopter, built by Bell Helicopter-Textron Inc., was on a routine parachute jump exercise conducted by the base's survival training school, which instructs Air Force pilots and crew members in emergency procedures.
It was not known whether the two survivors jumped as part of the training exercise or because of a problem with the helicopter. The helicopter was in radio contact with personnel on the ground before the crash, but Air Force officials did not disclose whether the crew reported any problems.
When rescue units arrived, the burning remains of the aircraft had ignited surrounding desert brush. The blaze was quickly extinguished by firefighters, base Fire Chief Willie Bell said.
Debris was "scattered over an area of one to 1 1/2 miles," Bell said.
The bodies of the three people who died were in the wrecked fuselage, he said.
"We have no idea" why the helicopter went down, said Air Force Col. Steven Henrich, head of the investigation team at the crash scene, where a 12-foot-long piece of olive-green fuselage lay on the ground.
Base officials sealed off the area and brought in search crews and spotlights to comb the desert for stray pieces of wreckage. That process was expected to continue into the evening.
The Air Force began using the Huey in 1971 and still uses it for transport, medical, evacuation and other purposes. It typically accommodates a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, rescue specialist and up to 13 passengers, the Air Force said.
BURDETT, JAY DAVID, AUG 21, 1961- OCT 10, 1991, EDWARDS AFB, CA., HUS OF JANINE L. KELLEY, SON OF K. DALE BURDETT & JANICE GOLART, CAPT USAF
Helicopter Crash Still a Mystery: Tragedy: Air Force report fails to provide clear cause for 1991 accident in which three were killed. A separate document on the incident remains confidential. ABB
January 09, 1993|JOHN CHANDLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER
A newly released Air Force report on the October, 1991, helicopter crash that killed three servicemen at Edwards Air Force Base gives no clear cause for the accident.
The document, called an accident investigation report, contains the only findings on the crash that the Air Force intends to release. There is a separate safety mishap investigation report, which typically states a cause, but its findings are confidential.
Air Force officials said this week they have nothing more to say on the subject.
"The document is designed to be stand-alone. It says everything we can say on that particular incident," said Capt. John Boyle, a spokesman for the Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Air Force officials would not say whether they had found a cause for the crash. But the report, nearly 550 pages long, does detail the final flight of the 20-year-old twin-engine UH-1N helicopter. The craft, on a routine parachute training mission, began bucking and swerving, then turned virtually upside-down, lost its rotor blades, caught fire, and fell 8,000 feet to the desert. Two crew members survived the crash.
The UH-1N model involved, built by Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of Texas, has had various reported problems in recent years. A spokesman Friday confirmed that the company has been inspecting and modifying those craft used by the Air Force, but refused to detail the problems or the modification.
Another UH-1N crashed at Edwards on Jan. 14, 1991, killing two crew members and injuring two. A Marine Corps UH-1N crashed July 27, 1990, in Imperial County, killing two crew members and injuring three. Four Marines died Oct. 16, 1991, in a UH-1N crash near the Salton Sea.
The Air Force had blamed the January, 1991, crash at Edwards on failure of the helicopter's main drive shaft coupling, likely because of overheating caused by misalignment. But they had ruled out that cause for the October, 1991, Edwards crash. No cause was available on the Marine crashes.
Air Force officials said they always keep confidential the safety report, the one that typically contains a cause, because its findings are used to help prevent future crashes. Servicemen testifying in that process are promised that nothing they say can be used against them or become public.
The document released on the October, 1991, crash found no drug impairment by crew members, no sign of maintenance or mechanical problems likely to have contributed to the crash, and no external conditions--such as bad weather--that might have caused the mishap.
Killed in the crash were the pilot, Capt. Jay D. Burdett, 30, of Albion, N.Y.; an aerial photographer, Staff Sgt. John R. Anderson, 26, of Columbia, Pa., and survival instructor Staff Sgt. Kurt H. Ellington, 30, of Charlotte, N.C. Two crew members were thrown free of the craft and parachuted to safety. One was injured.
According to the report, as the troubled craft began veering to the right and flying nearly upside-down, the main rotor blades sliced off its tail, then came loose. In the process, the rotor blades also hit the cabin four or five times, and apparently punctured a fuel tank.