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Out of Harm's Way

Out of Harm's Way

1-17th Cavalry, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade
Fort Liberty, North Carolina

It was just another routine training flight in the local Fort Liberty flying area. We were conducting a night team flight supporting the local Air Force combat controllers in what is known as the Northern Training Area (NTA). All was well and, upon the conclusion of our mission, we landed to kick out the left-seaters to give the guys a face-to-face debrief on how it went for both sides.

We were getting close to our end-of-the-mission block before we landed but decided we should debrief these guys anyway. By the time the left-seaters got back, we were about 10 minutes out from our downtime, so they strapped in as quickly as they could and we got on the move.

The NTA is inside the core of Pope Army Airfield’s Class C airspace, and the area that we were specifically operating in is located about 3 nautical miles north of the field. Normally, we use a corridor to recover to Simmons Army Airfield that keeps us out of Pope’s surface base and underneath their shelf, but they frequently let us transition direct, depending on the fixed-wing traffic at the field.

I was right-seat lead and made the call to Pope with my position (approximately 2 miles north of the field) and requested to transition direct to Simmons. They obliged and advised me that a C-130 was on an 8-mile final for landing on Runway 23. They told me to call when I was 1 mile north of the field.

The path from where we were in the NTA direct to Simmons basically takes you about a half-mile east of the approach end of Runway 23. I made another call to Pope when we were 1 mile north, and the controller advised us that the C-130 was on a 4-mile final and that I should expedite. Anyone who is familiar with the OH-58D knows that “expedite” for us was not even remotely close to what one would expect from a high-performance aircraft; nevertheless, we pulled in what we had in an attempt to cross the centerline prior to the C-130 arriving.

It wasn't until we were about quarter-mile from centerline that I spotted the C-130, too close for comfort, and realized this was not going to end well if we continued our course. I alerted trail and banked hard right 180 degrees to avoid the C-130. I then called tower to let them know I would be holding to the north for the landing traffic.

Lessons learned

Although not catastrophic, we were able to take away a few lessons learned from this incident. First, take your time. Running late and trying to get back fast is what got us into the situation. Had we planned better, we could have taken the long way home and it would never have been an issue.

Second, don’t blindly follow ATC clearances. A lot of times they are no more experienced than we aviators. If your gut is telling you that it’s a bad idea, then it probably is. If you don't like what they give you, don’t be afraid to request a different clearance to keep yourself and your crew out of harm’s way.


  • 19 May 2024
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 256
  • Comments: 0
Categories: On-DutyAviation