The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Black Hawk helicopter crash prompts response from CT-based Sikorsky officials

- By Luther Turmelle lutther.turmelle@hearstmedi­

Officials at Stratfordb­ased Sikorsky Aircraft are reiteratin­g the company’s commitment to safety after one of the company’s Black Hawk helicopter­s crashed Wednesday in Alabama, killing two National Guard crew members.

The crash, which occurred just outside of Huntsville in northeast Alabama, killed two Tennessee National Guard members. The crash site is not far from the AlabamaTen­nessee border.

Britt Rabinovici, a Sikorsky spokeswoma­n, said company officials “are deeply saddened and extend our condolence­s to all those affected” by the crash.

“Safety is our top priority, and we stand ready to support our customer and the investigat­ive authoritie­s,” Rabinovici said. Sikorsky is a division of Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Tennessee National Guard helicopter crashed during a flighttrai­ning mission at around 3 p.m. on Wednesday, according to Brig. Gen. Warner Ross, Tennessee’s Adjutant General. The cause of the crash has not yet been determined.

Over the past several years, a handful of Black Hawk helicopter­s have been involved in crashes during training exercises, according to The Associated Press.

Whiteout conditions in Utah during 2022 caused a Black Hawk helicopter pilot during a training exercise to lose sight of where he was trying to land, causing a crash with another helicopter near a ski resort. None of men and women aboard the helicopter or the dozens of skiers nearby at the resort were injured.

Three Idaho Army National Guard pilots died in 2021 when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Boise during a training flight. A year earlier, two soldiers were killed and three were injured when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training exercise off the Southern California coast.

But even taking into account those incidents, “I don’t think there is a lot of question about the safety record of Black Hawk helicopter­s,” said Richard Aboulafia, managing director at AeroDynami­c Advisory, an aerospace consulting firm.

“There are thousands of Black Hawks out there and they have been flying for 40 years,” Aboulafia said.

The Alabama crash occurred as Sikorsky officials and members of Connecticu­t federal legislativ­e delegation continue to formally protest a decision by the U.S. Army to award a contract to Texasbased Bell Aircraft for the helicopter that will replace the Blackhawk over time. Since announcing the challenge of the Army’s decision in late December, member of the Connecticu­t delegation have expressed frustratio­n at the Army’s response to requests for informatio­n needed for the appeal process.

Delegation members sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III of Feb. 10 asking him to direct the Department of the Army to provide a detailed briefing on the competitio­n associated with the awarding of the contract. The members requested the detail briefing to be provided to Congress by Friday.

As part of the letter to Austin, delegation members detailed four previous requests that had made for informatio­n and how Army leadership had repeatedly refused to address those requests.

“As members of Congress, we have a responsibi­lity to conduct oversight of the Department of Defense to ensure proper stewardshi­p of taxpayer dollars,” the letter said in part. “The Department of the Army has declined to provide us with a briefing, offering incomplete, misleading, and factually incorrect justificat­ions as to why members of Congress are not entitled to receive this informatio­n while the Government Accountabi­lity Office (GAO) evaluates a competitor’s protest.”

Aboulafia said he does not believe Sikorsky’s efforts to appeal the Army’s decision will prove to be successful.

“You had two completely different animals in that competitio­n and the Army really seemed to prefer the Bell entry,” Aboulafia said.

Army officials announced in early December that they were opting for tilt-rotor technology embodied in the Bell V-280 Valor, over the Defiant-X offered by Sikorsky and Boeing as the ultimate replacemen­t for the Black Hawk.

 ?? Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Officials with the Stratford-based helicopter manufactur­er say they are ready to work with federal investigat­ors to determine what caused the Black Hawk helicopter to crash.
Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticu­t Media Officials with the Stratford-based helicopter manufactur­er say they are ready to work with federal investigat­ors to determine what caused the Black Hawk helicopter to crash.

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