Helicopter CH-46D 153997


Information on U.S. Marine Corps helicopter CH-46D tail number 153997
Date: 01/26/1969
Incident number: 69012626.KIA
Unit: HMM-364
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was LOSS TO INVENTORY
This was a Rescue and Recovery mission for Medical Evacuation
While Enroute this helicopter was at Level Flight at UNK feet and UNK knots.
South Vietnam
Count of hits was not possible because the helicopter burned or exploded.
Anti-Aircraft Artillery; Gun launched explosive ballistic projectiles equal to or greater than 20 mm in size.
Systems damaged were: PERSONNEL
Casualties = 07 DOI . . Number killed in accident = 0 . . Injured = 0 . . Passengers = 0
The helicopter Crashed. Aircraft Destroyed.
Both mission and flight capability were terminated.
Burned
costing 0
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center Helicopter database. Also: OPERA, NSC, BOING (Naval Safety Center. Operations Report. )
Summary: Aircraft flew into Ba Na Mountain on a night medevac.
Loss to Inventory and Helicopter was not recovered

Crew Members:
CP 1LT STERLING DAVID WALTER KIA
AC 1LT MEYER JOHN FRANKLIN KIA
G LCP DOLAN DAVID PATRICK KIA
G LCP HANNIBAL JAMES EDWARD KIA
MD HN LUBIN RICHARD MARC KIA

Passengers and/or other participants:
PFC PEDDY CHARLES LEE, MC, CE , KIA
LCP SCHICKEL MICHAEL JOSEPH, MC, G , KIA


War Story:
The following information is from the HMM-364 web site. Information received from 1stLt. Robert W. Estrup, USMCR (Vet) This accident disturbed me a lot, when it happened. I knew both pilots and thought they were both as skilled, if not better skilled, than most. I recall that they were called out to retrieve a medevac located on Charlie Ridge at around 3-3:30 AM. But they crashed into Ba` Na`, the 6,000 ft. mountain where the French resort ruins were on top. So to this day I do not understand why they crashed into Ba Na' at the 3,000-3,500 ft level. Ba` Na` is basically due west of some well defined land marks we used when flying out of Marble Mountain at night. I wish to describe what I believe may have happened to the flight. Generally, when we would leave Marble Mountain to work in the Hill 55, Charlie Ridge (eastern end) and An Hoa areas, we would head west and slightly north of Marble Mountain Air Facility, flying low level along the Song Cau Do (river) which ran close to the south approach end of Da Nang air base. We would continue west low level past the bridge of Highway 1 until the second bridge where Highway 541 crossed the Song Cau Do. These bridges were excellent landmarks because they were well lighted in a country that wasn't "total electric." This would take us west of the approach area to Da Nang AB. Then we would climb out to a comfortable altitude tracking south along Highway 541 (a dirt road) where it would eventually join Highway 1 some three clicks to the north and east of Hill 55. West and south of the Highway 541 bridge, it would get real dark with no landmarks to rely on a night. I had noticed an anomaly or unreliability of the Da Nang Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) radio when flying anywhere close to the mountains extending to the west, from the north end of Da Nang harbor. The mountains on the north side of "Happy Valley" (Charlie Ridge paralleled along the south side of the "Happy Valley") were also subject to erratic TACAN behavior. This includes the Ba` Na` vicinity. I think I griped several TACAN problems on the "yellow sheets" indicating a 40 to 45 degree northward error before I gave up and blamed the problems on geography. But I also vowed that I would never rely on the Da Nang TACAN if I had any other way to navigate. I think John and Dave set a course to intercept a specific Da Nang TACAN radial which they would then track outbound to the location of their Medevac, or some other check point from which they could fly to the Medevac site. Unfortunately, the TACAN was probably at least 45 degrees off, maybe more close to Ba` Na`. My recollection is that they flew straight into the mountain at around 3,000 feet. This does not suggest a mechanical problem problem with the aircraft but rather and electronic problem with the Da Nang TACAN. They were flying at an altitude that would give them sufficient clearance from every obstacle except Ba` Na`. I believe that they didn't think they were anywhere close to Ba` Na`. The combination of pitch black and haze at 3:00 AM probably kept them from having any chance to see the danger they were in. Six brave Marines and 1 brave Navy Corpsman who I still miss and think of after 32 years. I do remember waking up the morning after they crashed and feeling a great sense of loss. Both were fine men and I get sad thinking how their families have missed them. The morning was cool and hazy, with high cirrus clouds streaking across the sky in shades of pink. There was a haze covering the mountains. I recall that the chase plane was piloted by 1stLt. Don Robbins, I think he could shed some light on this accident if he could be located. Information received from LtCol. Larry W. "Slick" Britton, USMC (Ret) I was the Squadron Safety Officer at the time of the crash. Due to the chase plane report that the first thing they saw was an explosion (apparently as the airplane hit the mountain) I too wondered about the TACAN. Like Bob Estrup, I had experienced 40 degree lock-offs from Da Nang before. I ran an azimuth on a map of the intended course & then ran one that would result if there was a 40 degree lock-off. The lock-off azimuth intersected Ba Na mountain at the exact spot where John and Dave crashed. I am convinced that the TACAN error was the primary cause of their crash.

This record was last updated on 02/17/2005


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