WASHINGTON — A loss of situational awareness by the pilot and a failure to take control of the aircraft by the copilot are the primary factors that caused the crash of a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter 55 miles outside Salt Lake City, Mar. 3, 2010, according to a Coast Guard final action memo released here, Monday.
The memo also noted the pilots failed to plan for or adapt to flying over cold mountainous terrain and how the conditions would affect aircraft performance.
The memo goes on to say the pilot, “allowed the aircraft to slow to an airspeed where the power required to maintain flight exceeded the power available.” It also suggests the copilot had recognized the error and had a responsibility to assume control of the aircraft when the pilot did not respond to the copilot’s warnings.
As a result, the memo directs eight actions including the implementation of a formal mountainous area flying training requirement, clarifying tactical control procedures and conducting a risk management case study to address procedural shortcomings in preflight and adapting to changing conditions in flight.
“This mishap is a reminder that all missions performed in the Coast Guard carry risk that, if not managed properly, can lead to potentially devastating consequences,” said Vice Adm. Peter V. Neffenger, Coast Guard deputy commandant of operations.
The crash occurred after two Jayhawks and aircrews had taken off from Salt Lake City to continue the next leg of a cross country flight that began at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., and was to end at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C. Shortly after reaching their transit altitude one of the Jayhawks began to rapidly lose altitude, impacting the treetops, then crashing into mountainous terrain in the Silver Meadows area of Wasatch National Forest.
The crash injured four of the five air crew aboard; three were seriously injured requiring extensive recovery periods.
The Jayhawks were returning to their home base in North Carolina after completing a five-week deployment to support 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
The final action memo is available online in the Coast Guard’s FOIA reading room website at http://www.uscg.mil/foia/FOIA_Library.asp