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Safety spotlight.

CAPT ANIBAL AGUIRRE, SSGT JOHN BALLARD, SSGT ZACH GYOKERES, MAJ JEN REED, 64 ERQS, JOINT BASE BALAD, IRAQ. On 6 September, during a daytime mission rehearsal, an HH-60G, Jolly 12, was flying formation approximately .8 NM spacing behind lead helicopter while climbing from 120' AGL to 1,500' MSL for a tactical instrument approach. The mission copilot (MC) was on the controls and the mission pilot (MP) was "eyes in" the cockpit entering parameters into the control display unit for the approach. The mission flight engineer (MF) and mission aerial gunner (MG) were scanning for threats and hazards while handling the HH-60G .50 caliber weapons. At approximately 300' AGL, the helicopter encountered a flock of wren-sized birds that was obscured by the hazy horizon until just prior to impact. Both pilots saw the birds, but too late to maneuver and avoid. The MC instinctively raised the nose of the helicopter, increased collective for power and began a maximum performance climb in an attempt to minimize damage to vital systems and maximize altitude for any follow-on actions. The helicopter was struck by 13 birds. Impact points were the MP's windscreen, nose cowling, main rotor blade(s), tail rotor blade(s), stabilator, landing gear cowling, flare dispenser, and the right .50 caliber weapon. Immediately after impact, MC re-established level flight to ascertain the airworthiness of the helicopter while the MP scanned the instruments for indications of malfunctions. MP then directed a roll call check of the crew. The helicopter had a substantial amount of feathers inside the cabin, but the crew reported okay. The main rotor tip path was erratic but controllable, and the engine instruments did not indicate that a bird had been ingested. Within seconds, the MP analyzed the situation, informed lead that the helicopter had multiple bird strikes, was airworthy but damaged, and needed to return to base immediately. The MP then took the controls. Jolly 12 crew utilized crew resource management (CRM) to discuss and anticipate likely malfunctions that may manifest during the 15-minute flight back to Joint Base Balad (JBB). The main rotor blades were emphasized due to the obvious erratic tip path plane and aircraft vibrations. Jolly 12 flew at an airspeed and altitude to ensure the ability to auto rotate to a safe precautionary landing if required. Due to the quick and accurate actions of the crew and effective use of CRM, six lives and a $20M helicopter were successfully recovered at JBB. (Award of Distiction Oct 09)

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Publication:Combat Edge
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:415
Previous Article:October - November awards of distinction.
Next Article:Quarterly awards.
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