Close call: this is it. What the footage of the AH-64D crash in Afghanistan says.

The video of the AH-64D belonging to the 1-227 AvCav Regiment from FOB Sharana crashing on Feb. 6, 2012 in the Paktika province in Afghanistan went viral and almost anyone interested in military aviation has already seen it.

But I’m not sure everybody has had the opportunity to notice how close to crashing onto a military watching the fiesler-like maneuver the lucky US Army crew (lucky since they were not killed in the accident) went.

The Apache was part of a formation of two choppers performing armed overwatch for patrols picking up air-dropped supplies.

The maneuver was flown incorrectly since the beginning, according to Aaron Casarin, a pilot with several thousand flying hours on combat choppers:

The pull-up is not linear: the nose rises, but the tail tends to slip and fall instead of following the natural development of the maneuver. In my opinion this is indicative of the fact that the pilot began the climb with the cyclic then reduced the power as if he wanted to make a quick wingover.

Only at a later time he used again the power to help the chopper gaining some altitude. Obviously, at that point he had a low altitude, used all the available power to rotate the helicopter and a heavy fast descending mass.

This accident, whose outcome was not tragic by pure luck, reminds us why daredevil maneuvers and improvised “air shows” are so dangerous for both crews and spectators regardless of the skill and experience of the pilots.

A proof of poor airmanship rather than a sign of bravery.


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. Hi, don’t forget the much higher and therefore thinner air which probably caused this manouvere to fail as it did.. At ground level he may have gotten away with it, but up there, this is the result…


  2. Not only did the tail come extremely close to the guy per the pics above, it is downright miraculous that an entire row of bystanders farther down the flight/crash path. When the powdery slow cleared, I expected to see dead bodies. I am utterly baffled (and extremely relieved) to see that that didn’t happen.

    Do those of us in the Safety community have to keep beating the drum that unauthorized airshows, although neat to watch, all too often end with destroyed aircraft and people killed? I guess we do, because it keeps on happening.

  3. Oops, correction to the first sentence. I ended it too soon. The part after the comma should say, “…it is downright miraculous that an entire row of bystanders farther down the flight/crash path were not taken out.”

  4. look at AH64D mission data recorder video that shows how to show the MDR parameters

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