Engine failure caused fatal Minnesota National Guard helicopter crash near St. Cloud, investigation finds
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Wednesday, the Minnesota National Guard released its summary of investigation results from a helicopter crash in December that killed three crew members near St. Cloud.
The report said the crew was conducting a maximum power check on the No. 1 engine in an area southwest of the St. Cloud regional airport on Dec. 5, 2019, when the engine failed and the No. 2 engine was in an idle setting, causing a dual outage condition. The crew was unable to recover and the helicopter crashed.
All three crew members on the aircraft were killed. They were identified as Chief Warrant Officer 2 James A. Rogers Jr., 28, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles P. Nord, 30, and Warrant Officer Candidate Kort M. Plantenberg, 28.
"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.
According to the National Guard, the investigation determined several factors contributed to the crash:
- The No. 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.
- 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 following recommendations were made to prevent similar actions in the future:
- Consider administrative action for the mechanic who installed the HMU.
- Consider administrative action for the inspector who inspected the maintenance work. The National Guard said, as of January 2020, the inspector is no longer employed with the Minnesota National Guard.
- Additional training for maintenance test pilots regarding the conduct of maintenance test flights.
- Additional training for all Minnesota National Guard pilots in responding to emergency procedures.
- Review of the written and unwritten policies regarding maintenance test flights.
The National Guard said the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker also conducted a safety investigation and made recommendations to help prevent future accidents. However, those recommendations aren’t released to the public.
"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 Brig. General Best. "We hope the conclusion of this investigation and its findings will help to bring them closure and peace."