An Italian HH-3F crashes in France killing 8 POB

On Oct. 23, at around 16.30LT (14.30 Zulu) an HH-3F belonging to the 84° CSAR (Centro SAR, SAR Center) based in Brindisi, crashed between Isle-en-Barrois and Vaubecourt, near Strasbourg, France, causing the loss of 8 POB (People On Board). The aircraft was performing a cross-country navigation with another aicraft of the same type (belonging to the 83° CSAR of Rimini) to Florennes airbase, Belgium, where the helicopters had to attend the TLP (Tactical Leadership Programme) exercise. The “Pelikan” was flying from Dijon to destination: it had departed from Brindisi with 7 POB, made a fuel stop in Rimini where another pilot, belonging to the 83° CSAR, had been boarded, flew along the other HH-3F to Dijion, via Sarzana. During the last leg of its transit flight, it crashed into the ground and caught fire, causing the death of all the people on board. The reasons of the crash are obviously unknown. For certain, the weather was fine with sky clear and excellent visibility. Most probably, the big helicopter flew into terrain at high speed, since the first pictures published on the magazines don’t show any significant wreckage. The crew had a great experience on the aircraft in SAR missions flown also on the sea at night using the Night Vision Goggles (the most demanding ones), and they were recently in the news for the successful transportation of a newborn baby with heart problems. The aircraft was flying in formation with the other helicopter, but the other HH-3F was leading the formation and did not see what happened to the wingman. No mayday was radioed before the crash. A local witness that was standing more or less 1 chilometer from the impact point, saw the two aircraft flying above a farm, then heard a different sound coming from the second one, just like its blades had decelerated, then saw some kind of explosion coming more or less from the rotor and one of the blades breaking before the aircraft crashed into the ground. “Everything happened extremely fast, in no more than 1 second” she said. The Aeronautica Militare said it opened an investigation to determine the cause of the incident.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Very bad notice!

    This is the damned year for the 15th wing (and the Pelikan)!

    The HH3f gone down very quickly so only a big structural damage would be the reason of this tragedy.

    As per my info no radio call from the Pelikan, before/during the fatal moment, the helicopter was nbr 2 of the formation of italian helos to Florennes and the n.1 (from the 83° ) was ahead and no one on board saw or heard something.

    After a few moments (without reply at the radio calls) the crew of the nbr 1 make a 180° turn in order to make a visual check regarding the position of nbr 2 but no news unfortunately.

    Then the news arrived to us….

    I’m upset…..

  2. I’ve lost a friend in the yesterday’s accident.
    It’s so sad reading and listenging such a news.
    Condolences to the families of the whole crew.
    A group of highly experienced man…
    Fly high guys…

  3. In aggiunta cito da “Flying for me”, canzona scritta da John Denver dopo la tragedia del Challanger

    They were flying for me, they were flying for everyone.
    They were trying to see a brighter day for each and every one.
    They gave us their light, they gave us their spirit and all they could be,
    they were flying for me, they were flying for me.


    Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem sempiternam.

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