Helicopter UH-34D H-46

Information on Air America helicopter UH-34D tail number H-46
Date: 02/25/1970
Incident number: 700225AA.KIA
UTM grid coordinates: TG1696 (To see this location on a map, go to https://legallandconverter.com/p50.html and search on Grid Reference 48QTG1696 )
Casualties = 02 KIA, 01 INJ . .
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: War Story as related by a witness. Also: Wayne Knight, Hank Edwards, Air America KIA related documents ()
Summary: Aircraft crashed at V (Vientiane) Pad when the pilot allowed the rotor RPM to get too low while overloaded for the altitude.

Crew Members:

War Story:
According to the Air America records, the name of the Flight Mechanic on this aircraft was 'blacked out' which means that it was present in the original crash investigation report but made unreadable later. Harvey Potter and his co-pilot died as a result of injuries received in a crash near L-54. Joe Gaculais was the flight mechanic. He survived but was terribly burned and it took several months of painful therapy before he was able to return for duty. See the www.air-america.org article Flight Mechanic by Allen Cates as edited By Judith E. Porter.

The crash happened just outside of L-54, which is Luang Prabang (sp) The pad was high above the runway and quite small. I landed there several times and was quite familiar with it. It had a slope and you would ideally land into the up-slope. However, if the wind was from the opposite direction, it was prudent to land down-slope into the wind. This was uncomfortable since the H-34 tended to land tail first and this was impossible if landing down slope. I don't know if that caused the accident, but it could have. They were picked up by Ed Rudolphs, who was with HMM-365. He told me it was strange to first see them because they were all in their skivvies. This was before we started wearing Nomex. Their polyester uniforms had burned away leaving them in their T-Shirts and shorts, which tends to resist burning. Ed lifted them from the pad and carried them to the runway. A C-130 carried them to Udorn. I saw them as they were waiting to board a flight to the burn center in Tokyo, Japan.


Re the crash site, Tim Woozley (RIP) checked me out in the H34 at Luang Prabang in August 1969. We made several approaches and landings into that so-called pad. Tim told me it was the worst pad he had seen up-country and made sure I could land there safely. The pad was on such a steep slope that it would have been unsafe to land any way except up-slope.

He showed me the alternate landing site. It was several hundred yards up-slope and was an omni-directional pad as opposed to the other one. I immediately asked him why in the hell it was not the primary DZ. He knew of no good reason other than it meant the people did not have to move the equipment as far. After I was released to solo up-country, I made sure to land at the secondary pad if there was any doubt in my mind about the lower pad. I never got any static from the customer about my choices.

Finally after the fatal crash, the pad was permanently moved to the top pad. I am not certain if all training Captains were shown the alternate pad.

Very sad.

From: Hank Edwards

Beardsley was a newly-arrived fully qualified UH-34D pilot who was undergoing area familiarisation training with his very close friend Training Captain Harvey Potter. The Accident Review board found that the primary cause of the accident was that the aircraft was significantly overloaded for the altitude and conditions… as I recall, they had 4 55-gal drums of water on board. We also found that the relationship between the two pilots contributed to the accident. When Beardsley arrived as a new hire, Potter told me of their friendship and requested that he be assigned to him for area training…. his request was approved. The Board believed that Potter may have allowed his close friend Beardsley to continue a poor approach further than he might have done with someone he did not know so well. As a result of this accident, training pilots were no longer assigned close friends as trainees.

From: Wayne Knight

This record was last updated on 03/16/2012

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Date posted on this site: 11/13/2023

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