POL-E-CHARKI, Afghanistan – Aviators say that any landing you walk away from is a good landing.
Due to the quick reactions and solid training of U.S. Army Capt. Brian Lutz, a native of Glenview, Ill., and his flight crew, everybody walked away from a hard landing of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter here July 25.
Lutz’s crew, part of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, out of Fort Hood, Texas, was flying their normal route, preparing to land at Pol-E-Charki garrison when they experienced engine failure.
U.S. Army Sgt. Dean Helmeci, flight engineer, described the incident. “The engine was screaming and you could just hear the rotor slowing down. They were so slow; I imagined I saw each individual blade.”
Intensive training made the response of the crew second nature in the emergency, said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Cipher. “It’s actually just normal reaction. We’ve drilled so many times it just sort of happens.”
The flight crew routinely practices flying with one engine. “It’s just normal flight training,” said Cipher.
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Chris Fowler was at the controls as they were landing. He said there was a wall blocking the landing zone.
“I was just trying to land the thing,” said Fowler. “At first we were just trying to clear the wall. We were trying to pull it in and cushion it over the top.”
Fowler was losing altitude fast and realized the Chinook wasn’t going to make it to the landing pad. In order to dodge power lines, a busy road, and a guard tower, he ended up putting the Chinook on the wall.
“We were so low,” Fowler said. Amazingly, there were no injuries to civilians, and only four passengers received minor scrapes and bruises.
It was Fowler’s deft touch that prevented casualties, said U.S. Army Spc. Daniel Newman of Troop B, 1st Battalion 172nd Cavalry Squadron, out of Colchester, Vt. “The pilot was just able to land it as soft as possible.”
Newman was headed to Forward Operating Base Lightning as one of many passengers on the Chinook. He praised the way the crew handled the situation.
“We were all worried about fire and getting out fast,” said Newman. “The gunner was quick to get his weapons system out and get the door clear.”
“We’re just thrilled that everybody walked away,” said Lutz.
The cause of the mechanical failure is currently under investigation.