The pilot of the 4th Infantry Division UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter that crashed and burned Monday in a field near Bruceville-Eddy killing all seven soldiers aboard requested an instrument flight plan minutes before the crash, the Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday.
The newspaper quotes Darrell Meachum, southwest regional vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, as saying the pilot contacted controllers at Waco Regional airport about 15 minutes after taking off from Fort Hood to request an instrument flight plan.
The pilot reported he was flying at 800 feet and wanted an instrument flight plan, Meachum told the paper.
The Waco airport controller requested the helicopter’s position and the pilot said “Standby, sir,” but did not call back to provide the information, Meachum told the paper.
The helicopter crashed about 5 minutes later.
Fog was reported in the area Monday morning, but the crew was flying under visual flight rules, rather than using instruments to navigate, said Aviation Brigade Commander Col. Donald MacWillie.
The seven soldiers were on a flight to the Red River Depot Monday to inspect more 225 4th Infantry Division Humvees, which are being refurbished after a year of service in Iraq when the helicopter clipped some of the wires supporting the 18-hundred-foot KXXV-TV transmission tower.
The warning lights on the tower were not working at the time of the crash.
The station said a lightning storm knocked the lights out of commission last week.
The station had notified the Federal Aviation Administration, which posted a NOTAM, or notice to airmen, advising pilots of the outage.
Investigators will try to determine whether the crew of the helicopter checked the FAA database before embarking on the flight.
On the FAA NOTAM Web site, the advisory was included only among notices for pilots using the McGregor Airport, west of Waco.
It did not appear on the listings for either airport on Fort Hood, the Temple airport or the Waco Regional airport.
MacWillie told reporters Tuesday the helicopter’s flight plan should not have taken it near the heavy concentration of communications towers in the area where the Blackhawk went down.
Brig. Gen. Charles B. Allen, 49, and six other 4th Infantry Division soldiers died Monday in the crash.
Allen was an assistant commander of Fort Hood’s 4th Infantry Division who was promoted to brigadier general last year.
Division Support Commander Col. James Moore was also aboard the helicopter.
Also killed in the crash were 26-year-old Capt. Todd T. Christmas, 48-year-old CWO-5 Douglas V. Clapp, 32-year-old CWO-2 David H. Gardner, Jr., 27-year-old CWO-2 Mark W. Evans, Jr. and 29-year-old Specialist Richard L. Brown.
Gardner and Evans were the pilots of the helicopter.
Christmas was a Texas A&M University graduate who had just returned to Fort Hood after spending the Thanksgiving holiday with his family in New Mexico.
He was a member of A&M’s Corps of Cadets.
Christmas, who served a one-year tour of duty in Iraq, was a career military man who died doing what he loved, said family friend Patti Goetsch.
Fourth Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. James Thurman told reporters Tuesday at Fort Hood that the loss of the seven soldiers who died in the crash of an Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was a blow to the division.
“I cannot tell you how deeply this has touched all of us,” Thurman said.
“This has been a tough couple of days for all of us,” he said.
“I never like to lose a soldier,” Thurman said. “Soldiers are special to me (and) they mean a lot to this nation.”
The twin-turbine Blackhawk has been a military workhorse for two decades.
It’s capable of carrying a full 11-member infantry squad in addition to the three-member crew.
Brig. Gen. Charles B. Allen, 49, assistant division commander
for support. Allen, who was born in Alaska and listed his home of record as
Oklahoma, entered the Army in May 1977 and received his initial training as a
field artillery officer.
Col. James M. Moore, 47, commander of the Division Support
Command. A native of Peabody, Mass., he entered the Army in September 1980.
Capt. Todd. T. Christmas, 26, an air defense artillery officer
assigned to the division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special
Troops Battalion. A native of New Mexico, he entered the Army in August 2001.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Douglas V. Clapp, 48, a senior
division automotive maintenance officer. Clapp, who was born in Lebanon, Pa.,
and listed his home of record as Greensboro, N.C., entered the Army in August
Chief Warrant Officer 2 David H. Gardner Jr., 32, a helicopter
pilot assigned to the division's A Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment.
Gardner, who was born in Germany and listed Iowa as his home of record, entered
the Army in October 1992. Gardner served in Iraq from October 2003 to April
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark W. Evans Jr., 27, a helicopter
pilot assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment. Evans, who was
born in Michigan and listed his home of record as Florida, entered the Army in
November 1995. Evans served in Iraq from November 2003 to April 2004.
Spc. Richard L. Brown, 29, a helicopter mechanic assigned to
the division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company. Brown was born in Kansas
and listed Stonewall, La., as his home of record. Brown served in Iraq from
March 2003 to March 2004.