CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 2 CHAD OLSEN
A Company, 2nd Battalion,
10th Aviation Regiment,
10th Combat Aviation Brigade
Fort Drum, New York
The majority of military aviators know of the pressures of flying in a combat environment due to the deployments they’ve endured to help rid the world of terrorism. Therefore, we put forth a lot of effort into learning how to become better and safer pilots to accomplish a mission in an environment that is all too unforgiving. Although we constantly practice and rehearse various types of combat scenarios, we sometimes fail to recognize the pressures pilots endure to do a good job and successfully complete each mission. In turn, we allow ourselves to get too worked up and make faulty decisions. Here’s an example:
It was a regular summer day in Iraq, with the temperature in the low 100s and plenty of dust lingering in the air. We were tasked with a fairly simple operation to move a large number of Iraqi and American forces from an unsecured location back to the forward operating base. This would take place only after we completed a mission to uncover weapons caches scattered throughout the area. The mission had been briefed well, and everyone involved had a thorough understanding of what was required.
Due to the number of personnel that needed to be picked up and dropped off, the flight of four UH-60Ls was to make multiple trips to complete the mission. Everything seemed to be going as expected until Chalk 4 apparently suffered a hard landing. The incident caused the tail wheel fork assembly to become detached from the rest of the tail landing gear assembly. If one of the Soldiers that had just been dropped off hadn’t gotten the crew chief’s attention, the crew may never have realized the damage to the aircraft.
Apparently, the pilot had done all he could to maintain separation between his aircraft and the one in front of him. Still, his approach was too fast and caused the final touchdown to be a little too hard. His anticipation to land possibly caused him to reduce the power too quickly.
Even though I did not participate in this mission, I know both of the pilots flying that day pretty well. Both are terrific people to work with. One of the pilots has flown more than 2,000 hours, while the other, who apparently was on the controls at the time of the accident, hadn’t been flying for too long. Regardless, he had a great attitude and always showed a tremendous amount of dedication to becoming a better pilot.
I feel the amount of pressure an individual puts on oneself sometimes causes accidents like this despite the desire to do everything right. Allowing yourself to put too much pressure on what you are trying to accomplish can cause you to make an unclear decision or too quick of a control movement.
These pilots walked away from what could have been a more serious event as better and safer aviators who saw firsthand the unforgiving and unexpected dangers of combat flying. We should always understand the hazards we face on each flight and the pressure we can put on ourselves to accomplish a mission. Don’t add another risk to your flight. You already have enough to start with.