Pilot error blamed in Utah National Guard helicopter crash near Snowbird

Skiers are near a Blackhawk helicopter that crashed at Snowbird ski resort on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. Photo courtesy: Michael

DRAPER, Utah, April 21, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — An investigation into a crash involving two Black Hawk helicopters in Little Cottonwood Canyon in February has attributed the collision to pilot error and estimated damage to the involved aircraft at $9.2 million.

No injuries were reported after two Utah Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were involved in a training accident in the Snowbird/Mineral Basin area on Feb. 22, according to a news release Thursday from the National Guard.

Pilots involved in winter survivability and mobility training were approaching the landing zone at 9:35 a.m. when the trailing helicopter “descended below the lead aircraft … and entered white-out conditions,” according to South Carolina National Guard officials who investigated the crash.

The pilot in command of the trailing aircraft “could not determine his position in relation to the helicopter landing zone and relied on aircraft flight instruments as a reference as he attempted to land,” the news release states.

As the helicopter hit the ground, it drifted to the right and rolled onto its side, investigators said.

“As the aircraft rolled, the main rotor blades broke apart and a piece of the main rotor blade hit the lead aircraft, causing a catastrophic mechanical failure of the tail rotor,” the release states. “After completing a full spin, (the lead aircraft) was safely landed by the pilot in command.”

The investigation board determined the cause of the accident to be “human error on the part of the pilot” in command of the trailing aircraft, the release states.

“The board also found the actions of the pilot in command of (the lead aircraft) to be commendable, as the pilot was able to land the aircraft with no serious injuries to any crew members,” the release continues.

Both aircraft sustained damage to the main rotor blades, tail rotor blades, driveshaft and gearbox components, stabilators, engines and transmissions, as well as structural frame damage, according to the investigation.

Two replacement aircraft from Army Material Command are expected to arrive this month, according to the Utah National Guard.


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