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Army Investigation: Midair Crash Killed Four Helicopter Pilots In December

OH58 Kiowa Warrior. Photo courtesy of US Army
OH58 Kiowa Warrior. Photo courtesy of US Army

For the first time, the U.S. Army is confirming it was a midair collision that brought down two helicopters last December at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The results of an internal investigation into the crash that killed four pilots was released Monday. It blames pilot error, not a mechanical failure.

The two Kiowa Warrior reconnaissance helicopters were on a nighttime training mission last December 12th. According to the investigation, one of the helicopters flew directly into the side of the second chopper bringing both aircraft to the ground.

The report finds the crash was not survivable. It faults the commanding pilot of the first helicopter for failing to see and avoid the second one -- despite having been warned by air traffic controllers that another helicopter was in the area. The investigation notes that neither of the commanding pilots communicated with each other.

A key finding of the report: radar and radio communications are limited in the area where these low altitude nighttime training flights take place at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. This internal review of the tragedy is not the formal accident report. That’s expected to be released later this summer.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.