A failure to maintain situational awareness while transitioning from a hover to forward flight are among four factors the Coast Guard says contributed to the crash of a HH-65 Dolphin helicopter on Lake Huron, April 20, 2010, according to a final action memo drafted here and released today.
“Although no single factor caused this mishap, it is likely that it could have been avoided had the crew been more deliberate in recognizing their limitations,” wrote Vice Adm. Brian Salerno, deputy commandant for operations, in the memo that summarizes the key findings of an administrative investigation into the crash. The principal purpose of the investigation was to identify and better understand what went wrong and what can be done to prevent future crashes.
The memo directs seven actions including identifying training opportunities for Great Lakes air stations that have a reduced opportunity to practice hoisting survivors from the water due to lake freezing in winter, providing additional training to emphasize the need for pilots to effectively scan their instruments during transition, conducting an instrument take off when transitioning from a hover to forward flight while over water ,and avoiding over-reliance on night vision goggles.
The Coast Guard Air Station Detroit helicopter was conducting routine hoist training with a 41-foot boat from Coast Guard Station Port Huron. Immediately after completing night hoist training and while transitioning from a hover to forward flight, the helicopter crashed into Lake Huron. All three crewmembers successfully egressed the helicopter and suffered no significant injuries. CG 6523 sustained significant structural damage and remains out of service.
In the past five years, Coast Guard aircrews have saved 2,628 lives, assisted 5,000 people and flown 292,891 sorties totaling more than 582,161 flight hours. Included in those flights were 70,796 sorties in support of Coast Guard law enforcement, homeland security, environmental protection efforts totaling more than 170,669 flight hours.
The final action memo for the CG-6523 crash is publicly available online in the Coast Guard’s FOIA reading room a http://www.uscg.mil/foia/docs/CG%206523%20FAM.pdf.