Minnesota National Guard releases summary of investigation results from 2019 helicopter accident

August 5, 2020 (ST. PAUL, Minnesota) — The Minnesota National Guard is releasing a summary of the results from the military investigation board appointed by the Adjutant General to provide an accurate account of the Dec. 5, 2019, crash of a Minnesota National Guard UH-60L aircraft that resulted in the tragic death of three crew members.

“It is critical for us to determine what caused this tragic loss of life – not so that we can place blame, but so that we can do everything possible to ensure nothing like this ever happens again,” said Brig. Gen. Sandy Best, Interim Adjutant General, Minnesota National Guard.

The investigation found that on Dec. 5, 2019, a crew of three Minnesota National Guard members – a maintenance test pilot, a pilot and an aircraft mechanic – conducted a maintenance test flight to verify the proper installation of the aircraft’s Hydromechanical Unit (HMU). The crew was conducting a maximum power check on the Number 1 engine in an area southwest of the St. Cloud regional airport. The Number 1 engine failed during the check and the Number 2 engine was in the idle setting, causing a dual engine out condition. The crew did not recover the aircraft from this condition and it subsequently impacted the ground at a high rate of speed.

The investigation identified several factors that contributed to the accident:

– The Number 1 engine failed due to an incorrect installation of the Hydromechanical Unit (HMU)

– The inspection of the HMU installation was not completed in accordance with the published installation procedure

– The Maintenance Test Pilot failed to respond to a critical situation during a maintenance maneuver

– The pilot on the controls failed to execute an autorotative descent and landing

– Leaders did not adequately assess the technical inspector’s ability to perform his duties while pending administrative actions

– In accordance with Army Regulation and the Minnesota Army Aviation Standard Operating Procedures, the aircraft mechanic should not have been on the flight because he did not have a valid purpose for being on the flight

The investigation recommends the Minnesota National Guard take the following actions to prevent an accident like this from happening again:

– Consider administrative action for the mechanic who installed the HMU.

– Consider administrative action for the inspector who inspected the maintenance work. (As of January 2020, the inspector is no longer employed with the Minnesota National Guard).

– Additional training for maintenance test pilots regarding the conduct of maintenance test flights

– Additional training for all Minnesota National Guard pilots in responding to emergency procedures.

– Review of the written and unwritten policies regarding maintenance test flights

The Minnesota National Guard’s investigation is in addition to a safety investigation conducted by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker. The safety investigation results provide recommendations to prevent future accidents, and are not releasable to the public. The aviation community uses the results of safety investigations for safety and accident prevention purposes.

The families of the deceased service members have received separate, individual briefings on the results of the investigation. All three families have requested to have no media contact.

“We continue to grieve with the families of these fallen Soldiers and the Aviation community, and the extended Guard family during this extremely difficult time,” said Brig. General Best. “We hope the conclusion of this investigation and its findings will help to bring them closure and peace.”

For further inquiry, contact the Minnesota National Guard public affairs office at 651-282-4410 or mn.ng.web@mail.mil. Specific information regarding this accident and the report will be subject to FOIA request at this time.

– About the Minnesota National Guard –

Established in 1856 and headquartered in St. Paul, the Minnesota National Guard has more than 13,000 soldiers and airmen who serve in 58 communities across the state. The citizen-soldiers and airmen of the Minnesota National Guard are ‘Always Ready’ to fight the nation’s wars, protect the country, respond to state emergencies and contribute to local communities. For more information about the Minnesota National Guard, visit https://MinnesotaNationalGuard.ng.mil.