turning up can be dangerous
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There are several versions of what occurred this day. I would like to add mine. I was in the bird when this happened. The bird jumped into the air about 10 or 12 feet, flipped onto its side, split in half like a peanut shell in the middle, and came down on its side, with rotor blade fragments going everywhere, including the piece that went sailing all the way over to VMO-2s open hanger door, went clear through that bay without hitting people or birds and then smashed into the Marine's legs that was standing in the soda shop in the far diagonal corner. I don't officially know how serious his wounds were, but I was always told both of them had been broken and that he woke up on the hospital ship. They debriefed everybody afterward, and -- I must stress I disagree with the finding -- blamed it on Lt. or Cpt. (I can't remember his rank) Emerson. Heres the reason - Bob Masharka (Sharky) and I had gone out from avionics to check out a bitch on the radar altimeter. This required one of us to lay under the bird and hold up the dummy whatever it was called to make the altimeter think the bird was in the air, while the other was inside the bird checking the units operation and readings. Sharky did that part and I went under the bird. At the same time we were doing this, the electricians from the shop were out doing a blade check on the bird, using the ladder and the box. About the time I was done under the bird, they were moving the ladder to the other set of blades, and I came up and got in the bird to ask Sharky how we made out. By now the electricians had the box and ladder ready to go under the other rotor set, and Emerson had everything under control, with the blades turning and no problems. Sharky had brought his soda out with him and asked me if I wanted a slug, but I was planning on getting one when we got back off the flight line, so he turned to the cockpit, and asked Emerson if he wanted some. I watched Emerson as he reached to take the soda from Sharky and that is NOT when the accident occurred. He was as steady as a rock and there was no problem. After he returned the soda to Sharky, Sharky and I stood BS'ing for about a minute. I remember with the vibration of the bird thinking about one of the instructors back at Memphis (S/Sgt Louginnes -- I can't spell it) who had made Gunney, came to Nam and -- from what I was told in Nam -- was in an HMM-262 bird that had a sync shaft problem at 2,000 feet, fell apart, with all killed. He was a real decent instructor and a good Marine, and I remember thinking how horrible that must have been when the bird fell apart. I don't care whether anybody believes me or not -- thats when the bird jumped and fell apart. Maybe thinking about Louginnes was God warning me or something. Anyway, me and Sharky bounced around inside like rag dolls and suddenly, as I was thrown up against the side, I watched it rip open like a tin can about two or three feet from where I landed. I scrambled to get out and scooped up my glasses, which had fallen off, but Sharky was also moving at light speed, shouted something like there was no time for that, knocked them from my hand (after I already had them and was on the way out) and we jumped out of the bird through the split side. (There was a guy in supply who loaned me his glasses for an hour or so until I could retrieve mine again, and in my mind I still thank him for that.) Anyway, in the debriefing, I didn't say anything about Louginnes or the soda. The first would have brought down questions about my mental state and the second would have been used to peg it on the Lt., as first rule of air anything always has been and always will be piiot error. Sharky, however, did tell them about the soda, so then the investigator came back to me later in the day or the next one and asked me why I didn't say anything about it in my written statement. I had to play dumb enlisted guy and say I forgot it, for which he, correctly, gave me a look like how the hell could you forget that and what kind of reliability would your observations have in a combat situation, to which I also had to play dumb. Anyway, when the report was concluded, the Lt. was blamed, but I will never agree with that. As far as I'm concerned, the sync shaft between the fore and aft rotors got out of whack, possibly by being wound up in the cables that paralleled them, and caused the blades to smack into each other, dipping down to also smash into the box and the ladder, with the bird jumping and rolling at the same time. A sync shaft problem was -- to the best of what the scuttlebutt was back then -- the cause of the fall of the 262 bird, and does no one remember the entire aft pylon with all three rotor blades ripping off a bird and spinning across the flight line when the ExO - I think it was Major Yanke ?? -- came in on a touch-and-go and the bird broke apart on him for no reason? He controlled the rest of the bird (also spinning, I think) so no one got hurt. In short, my memory of Boeing Vertol and the mechanical dependency of 46s can't be written here. I learned about 10 years ago on this site that the Lt. did not make it back, and it's always bothered me that he got blamed for the wreck of No. 3. I've written something similar to this before, and I know I'm in the minority because the Officer who was the investigator stands by the report -- which, I guess, is as it should be. But I stand by my memories of that day, too. And, simply put, I do not believe Emerson caused EP-3 to wreck. It was mechanical failure. -- Jim Planck, Cpl. -Submitted by: Jim Planck [KaatClove@aol.com] 2010-04-18
I was in the hangar when the blade tracking crew pushed the B-2 stand with the tracking box on it into the front rotor disk after checking the aft rotor. The only casualty was a guy in the next hangar over- VMO I think- got hit with a piece of rotor blade and broke his leg. Not long after that we started using the in flight strobex tracker. -Submitted by: Luther Stephens [email@example.com] 2008-01-17