Three South Carolina National Guard helicopter pilots walked away from a harrowing Dec. 3 emergency landing in which their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter reportedly plummeted 6,000 feet in less than a minute after a main rotor failure.
The two pilots (the third pilot was a passenger) managed to land the helicopter in a field not far from a water treatment plant, a school and residences near I-77 just a couple miles southeast of Columbia, South Carolina, not far from Fort Jackson.
Four days later a CH-47 Chinook helicopter sling-loaded the downed aircraft to McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover, South Carolina.
Lt. Col. Andrew Batten, the state aviation officer for the Guard, said "we anticipate it was a mechanical issue" that caused the malfunction.
"The nature of the emergency required them to take emergency action steps," Batten told Army Times. "In certain emergencies they are required to respond without hesitation. The steps are kind of beaten into us in our training, from flight school to advanced training on particular aircraft."
After a loud bang during the instrumentation flight, a vibration began and quickly escalated; it turned out that the motor had died.
The Black Hawk was transported under a South Carolina Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook from Detachment 1, B-Company, 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion, Army Aviation Support Facility in Greenville, South Carolina.
Photo Credit: Sgt. Brian R. Calhoun
Batten said putting the aircraft down in the open landing space helped spare injury, collateral damage and more damage to the aircraft. So did the soft, saturated muddy ground at the time of the incident.
Soldiers prepare the Black Hawk for transport out of a cornfield in South Carolina on Sunday, Dec. 7. The cause of the main rotor malfunction remains under investigation.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Roberto Digiovine
The frame's structural integrity was tested to ensure it could make the trip dangling from the Chinook without falling apart.
King said traffic on the highway backed up for miles as people who had seen the crash stopped to see what was going on.
She also said the investigation could take up to six months.