Tag Archives: Aviation Safety

Stealth Black Hawk crash landing in Abbottabad could be (alarmingly) similar to a tail strike episode occurred to 160th SOAR in Iraq

Take a look at the following screenshots taken from a Youtube video taken with a helmet-mounted camera by US Special Forces (Delta Force’s A Sqn) rescuing Italian and Polish contractors from a hideout in Iraq with the help, once again of the 160th SOAR, on Jun. 8, 2004.

The first thing  I thought when I saw the footage is that sometimes history repeats itself.

Here the full video. The impact is clearly visible at mins 1.23 and 1.49:

Contractors had been abducted in Baghdad on Apr. 13, 2004 along with another Italian citizen, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who was killed by kidnappers on Apr. 14.
A daring rescue operation was put into action as soon as coalition forces gathered reliable information on the location where the hostages were being held. As the footage shows, the 4 MH-60s (using c/s “Prince 61 – 64”) along with 4 escorting AH-6s (“Granite 71 – 74”) flew  over Baghdad then approached fast and low the compound where the workers were held.
While the third MH-60K (“Prince 63”) was flaring before touch down (with a dust cloud raised by the preceeding choppers) it hit the comp0und’s wall with its tail rotor beam/stabilizer. Fortunately, unlike what happened in Afghanistan during Operation Neptune’s Spear, the Black Hawk did not break apart and it was able to land allowing the SOF operators to leap out and to rescue hostages. The operation was successful (as the OBL raid was) and the helicopter was (probably) able to return to its base (the video doesn’t show this phase so we can’t be completely sure it didn’t suffer some structural damage).

Anyway, what happened during the 2004 rescue in daylight conditions, seems like a confirmation to what I’ve already suggested yesterday (pt1) describing the possible root causes of the crash landing of the Stealth Black Hawk during the OBL raid: the helicopter might have hit the compound’s wall on fast approach for landing at night with NVG in a particularly long and exhausting mission. A lesson to be learned for future special ops involving low level approaches to compounds surrounded by walls?

The Stealth Chinook involved in the Osama Bin Laden raid and why the Stealth Black Hawk crashed in Abbottabad

An interesting article published yesterday by the Associated Press and commented by Wired/Danger Room, provided some interesting details about the Osama Bin Laden raid. Indeed, anonymous government sources have told the story to the AP even if information they disclosed, raise more questions…
Anyway, first of all, I can’t help but notice that my possible explaination of Operation Neptune’s Spear (OBL raid’s name), published on May 6, was not disproved by facts disclosed so far!

Five aircraft flew from Jalalabad, Afghanistan, with three school-bus-size Chinook helicopters landing in a deserted area roughly two-thirds of the way to bin Laden’s compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, two of the officials explained.

Good. The departure aerodrome is Jalalabad (my guess was right)  and there were also 3 Chinooks. Let’s have a look to what I wrote on May 6:

“I think there are two possibilities: both [helicopters involved in the raid] were Silent/Stealth/Upgraded/Modified/etc. Black Hawks; or 2 were Stealth Black Hawks and Stealth Chinooks. I don’t believe that “normal” MH-47s were involved as some media speculated (for the above mentioned considerations on the stealthiness of the formation) so, I’m almost sure only new Black Hawks were used. However, since we now know that a Black Helicopter exists, I can’t completely rule out the possibility that, along with a Stealth Black Hawk, somewhere there’s also some sort of modified Stealth Chinook flying.

Since the officials confirmed that 3 Chinooks were involved and given that a mixed formation of stealth and non-stealth helos would have rendered the entire formation clearly visible on radars and audible from distance, I believe that there must be also a modified MH-47 flying with the 160 SOAR. Unlike the Black Hawk, we have no photographic evidences of it, but I think that their existence is somehow confirmed by the fact that the officers admitted their presence on the scene. Furthermore, it is quite obvious that the sources are trying to deceive the public opinion when they say to the AP journalist that:

The Black Hawks were specially engineered to muffle the tail rotor and engine sound, two officials said.

You can’t reduce noise by modifying only the tail rotor. Even the main rotor had to be fixed. And what about the anti-radar finish to enhance stealthiness? In my opinion, as explained in the last post on this subject, the Stealth Black Hawk is a highly modified version of the UH-60 helicopter.

I’ve asked once again to Ugo Crisponi to prepare a sketch of how a Stealth Chinook might look like by applying more or less the same modification used for the Stealth Black Hawk.

The same AP article then gives some details about the Stealth’s crash landing:

The added weight of the stealth technology meant cargo was calculated to the ounce, with weather factored in. The night of the mission, it was hotter than expected. […]

The plan unraveled as the first helicopter tried to hover over the compound. The Black Hawk skittered around uncontrollably in the heat-thinned air, forcing the pilot to land. As he did, the tail and rotor got caught on one of the compound’s 12-foot walls.

On this topic I had a chat with a friend of mine, who’s a former helicopter combat pilot with some Tour of Duty in Afghanistan. He’s quite skeptical about the “weather factor”: Abbottabad is “only” 4.000ft AMSL and at night, the temperature is always (well) below 30° C. Even a heavy modified helicopter should not have problem hovering over the compound. Hence, there could have been three kind of “root cause” for the crash landing:

1) flying a very risky mission at night with Night Vision Goggles, the pilots could have lost situational awareness and impacted the compound’s wall while approaching it for landing. This would explain why the tail is cut as images show
2) the helicopter, flying at lower altitude than the other Stealth Black Hawk, was hit by wake turbulence generated by the other chopper’s rotor. “It’s a very dangerous situation” my friend told me “since the turbulence hits both the main and tail rotor, giving almost no chances to react”
3) there was a “recirculation condition”: exacerbated by proximity to walls or cliffs or trees, this occurs when the air passes down through the rotor disc, hits the ground, moves out horizontally, hits the wall, goes up and then gets sucked down again through the rotor. You then have air that is already moving down coming through the disc and this leads to a greater power requirement which can then make the effect worse. This accident may not have been helped by the modifications to the tail rotor to make it stealthy that also reduced its efficiency and need for more power. It may not have been helped by pilot’s under pressure,
coming in low and fast, possibly with obscured vision behind the first aircraft throwing up dust/sand.

A400M test flight

An interesting flight could be monitored on Feb. 28, 2011, thanks to Flightradar24: a test flight of the Airbus A-400M F-WWMT (which uses the Mode S and it is “seen” by ADS-B receivers) from Toulouse – Blagnac airport to Corse and return. The following screenshots were taken at 13.40Z, as the aircraft was flying at FL310 at 414KtsM, and at 14.16Z, as the plane was about to land at Toulouse (the track history shows the path followed by the multi-national four-engine turboprop transport aircraft).

On Feb. 15, Grizzly 1, as the A400M development is dubbed, had executed a series of AAR (air-to-air refuelling) trials using a RAF tanker operating from Toulouse, performing dry contacts with the VC10´s fuselage-mounted hose drum unit (HDU).

Exclusive photos: IAF F-15D performing 360° roll after take off

In a previous post, published on this site on Feb. 9, 2011, titled Israeli F-15 pilot jailed after performing dangerous maneuvers at Decimomannu I explained that a pilot and a navigator of the 106 Sqn of the Israeli Air Force, based at Tel Nof, were sent to prison for 7 days and suspended from flight activities for one year, after performing a 360° roll after take off from Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia, where the aircraft was detached for Exercise Vega 2010. After reading my article, Tony Lovelock, a British journalist and photographer, sent me a message to tell me that he was there when the IAF pilot made the 360° roll and that he had taken pictures of the entire maneuver. Below you can find the entire, unbelievable sequence of pictures Tony was able to shot to the F-15D 90-0275/733 at Decimomannu on Nov. 19, 2010; 8 shots taken in about 4 seconds. According to the Exif of the photos, the whole sequence of shots took place between 10.23.37LT and 10.23.44LT while the time between the third shot, as he started the roll, and the last, being 4 seconds: 10.23.40LT – 10.23.44LT. Here’s how Tony commented his own pictures: “Sadly, not all the shots are as sharp as I would have liked, but from the position I was shooting from, there is a tall tree close to my left; as he passed this, I stopped following him, the next second he was into his party act, and I had to catch up with him again. This was not as easy as it would seem, as he appeared to be going in all conceivable directions at the same time, and getting increasingly further away with each second”. Even if some images might be not as sharp as Tony would have liked, they are the only documentary evidence of the unusual maneuver that cost so much to the Israeli pilot.

Click below to open the file with the entire sequence of 8 pictures (from right to left) taken by Tony Lovelock at Decimomannu on Nov. 19, 2010.

Gulf Air pilot almost blinded during landing at Abu Dhabi – exclusive story

On Feb. 15, a Gulf Air pilot was hit by a high-power laser during approach to Abu Dhabi suffering “high light intoxication” on one eye. The pilot, that was hospitalized upon arrival, was flying the aircraft in the downwind for runway 31L when he observed the laser originating from nearby a car, in a desertic area. Investigation is  in progress. Such kind of events have become quite frequent all around the world and laser attacks against civil (and in some cases also military) planes during landing have been occurring almost daily.