Engine failure blamed in deadly Minnesota National Guard helicopter crash

Decemeber 2019 crash killed 3 Minnesota National Guard soldiers

WCCO Radio Newsroom
August 06, 2020 - 5:16 am
National Guard members killed in chopper crash

Minnesota National Guard

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A deadly Minnesota National Guard helicopter crash in December 2019 could have been prevented according to a report released Wednesday afternoon by the Minnesota National Guard.

All three crew members aboard the Minnesota National Guard UH-60L aircraft were killed when it crashed near Kimball, just north of St. Cloud on December 5, 2019. Those killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr., 28, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord, 30, and Warrant Officer Candidate Kort M. Plantenberg, 28.

An investigation found that three Guard members were conducting a maintenance test flight to test out the aircraft's Hydromechanical Unit (HMU). Due to the HMU being installed improperly, the No. 1 engine failed as the crew conducted a maxmimum power check of the engine southwest of the St. Cloud regional airport. Engine No. 2 was in the idle setting, causing a dual engine outage. The crew was unable to recover and hit the ground at a high rate of speed.

The investigation went on to find:

  • The inspection of the HMU installation was not completed in accordance with the published installation procedure.
  • The Maintenance Test Pilot failed to respond to a critical situation during a maintenance maneuver.
  • The pilot on the controls failed to execute an autorotative descent and landing.
  • Leaders did not adequately assess the technical inspector’s ability to perform his duties while pending administrative actions.

The report included brief statements on the findings.

“It is critical for us to determine what caused this tragic loss of life – not so that we can place blame, but so that we can do everything possible to ensure nothing like this ever happens again,” said Brig. Gen. Sandy Best, Interim Adjutant General, Minnesota National Guard.

Additionally, the report states that the aircraft mechanic should not have been on the flight because he did not have a valid purpose for being on the flight based on Army Regulation and the Minnesota Army Aviation Standard Operating Procedures.

  • The investigation recommends the Minnesota National Guard take the following actions to prevent an accident like this from happening again:
  • Consider administrative action for the mechanic who installed the HMU.
  • Consider administrative action for the inspector who inspected the maintenance work. (As of January 2020, the inspector is no longer employed with the Minnesota National Guard).
  • Additional training for maintenance test pilots regarding the conduct of maintenance test flights
  • Additional training for all Minnesota National Guard pilots in responding to emergency procedures.
  • Review of the written and unwritten policies regarding maintenance test flights

“We continue to grieve with the families of these fallen Soldiers and the Aviation community, and the extended Guard family during this extremely difficult time,” Brig. General Best added in the report. “We hope the conclusion of this investigation and its findings will help to bring them closure and peace.”

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