DIXIE VALLEY — Soldiers from Nevada Guard’s 1/189th Aviation put the muscle of their Chinook CH-47 to work providing the required thrust to recover a Navy Knight Hawk MH-60S off the valley floor on Thursday.
The downed helicopter here, which resembles the Army’s Black Hawk UH-60, rolled on its side during a routine training mission near Naval Air Station Fallon on Sept. 2. The wrecked helicopter belongs to Helicopter Sea Command Squadron Based at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif. The five crewmen survived the crash with minor injuries. The Navy requested the Army Guard unit recover the wreck after it completed its crash investigation Sept. 9.
The recovery mission wasn’t new for the experienced helicopter crews.
“The unit has recovered aircraft since we were flying Sky Cranes,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dan Walters, a training pilot for the 1/189th Aviation. “We not only conduct these missions for Fallon and Nellis, but other agencies as well.”
The Chinook is often tasked with recovering downed aircraft because of its power.
“The Fallon Naval Air Station doesn’t have the lift capability that our CH-47s have,” said 1st Sgt. Don Gable, 1/189th Aviation. “That load was about 18,000 pounds. It takes a lot of thrust to pick up something that heavy.”
The first sergeant said the unit often conducts lifting and heavy load transportation training.
“We train all the time on standard loads. But when an aircraft goes down and becomes a wreck, it is no longer a standard load,” Gable said. “The soundness of the wreck and many other variables are taken into consideration. Safety is the number one priority and plays a major part during the planning and execution of these missions.”
Gable said aircraft recovery is an important skill for a unit possess.
“In addition to assisting the Navy, these missions provide us a chance to pass along skills to the younger Soldiers and help improve the continuity of the skill-set, in the unit,” Gable said. “While deployed, we are tasked to recover downed airframes. We need to have the confidence to conduct the missions abroad, as smoothly as this one. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in this crash.”
The wreck was located on an active training range which complicated the recovery.
“There were a lot of logistics that needed to be worked through to make this mission a success,” Walters said. “The whole event was planned and executed in just a few days. We gave consideration to topics such as; range scheduling, dust control during the lift, rigging issues with a broken aircraft and the routes for an unusually long haul (38 nautical miles).
“Once everything was in place, the lift itself went smooth.”