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Guard cites mechanical failure, human error in fatal Black Hawk crash

Three battlefield crosses were proudly displayed at the front of the North Fort Hood Chapel on Dec. 8, 2019 during the memorial ceremony for Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr., Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord and Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg, members of Charlie Company, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion. As fellow aviators in the Minnesota National Guard, 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion hosted the ceremony for the flight crew who tragically died in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash on Dec. 5, 2019 (Sgt. Sydney Mariette/34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade/DVIDS)
August 06, 2020

The Minnesota National Guard on Wednesday cited mechanical failure and human errors for a Dec. 5 Black Hawk helicopter crash near St. Cloud that killed three service members.

The Guard’s investigative summary, issued in a news release, found the number one engine failed during the check and the number two engine was in the idle setting, according to the release.

The following factors were cited:

“The Number 1 engine failed due to an incorrect installation of the Hydromechanical Unit (HMU)

The inspection of the HMU installation was not completed in accordance with the published installation procedure

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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

In accordance with Army Regulation and the Minnesota Army Aviation Standard Operating Procedures, the aircraft mechanic should not have been on the flight because he did not have a valid purpose for being on the flight”

The summary did not include personal identities for any of the positions listed.

The UH-60L took off from the St. Cloud Army Aviation Support Facility Dec. 5 and went missing for almost two hours. It was confirmed crashed and found in a field about 16 miles southwest of St. Cloud, near Pearl Lake.

Killed were Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg, 28, of Avon; Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr., 28, of Winsted; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord, 30, of Perham.

The families of the three received individual briefings on the results, according to the release, and requested to have no media contact.

“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, in the release

The military investigation board was appointed by the adjutant general “to provide an accurate account” of the crash, according to the release.

The investigation also provided recommendations for the Minnesota National Guard.

Those included considering administrative action for the mechanic who installed the hydromechanical unit as well as for the inspector of the maintenance work. (As of January, the inspector is no longer employed with the Guard.)

Further recommendations include additional training for maintenance test pilots regarding test flights and additional training for all pilots in responding to emergency procedure, according to the release.

A review of the written and unwritten policies for maintenance test flights was also recommended.

The investigation conducted by the Minnesota National Guard was in addition to the safety investigation by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker.

“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,” said Best. “We hope the conclusion of this investigation and its findings will help to bring them closure and peace.”

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© 2020 the St. Cloud Times