74-22292

 

             The following report on the untimely demise of CH-47C Chinook helicopter 74-22292 is intended to educate and inform. Without question, the loss of this aircraft resulted in the worst and most tragic accident to occur in the history of the Chinook and all helicopters in general. This page contains many graphic and un-nerving photographs not intended for the weak at heart.

 

             74-22292, Boeing build number B-711, was a CH-47C helicopter. The U.S. Army acceptance date was 29 October 1976. 74-22292 accumulated 892.0 aircraft hours. At some point, 74-22292 was assigned to the 295th Assault Support Helicopter Company - "Cyclones", located at Coleman Army Airfield, Coleman Barracks, near Mannheim, West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany). 74-22292 remained assigned to the 295th ASHC until it was lost due to an accident on 11 September 1982. The last known location of 74-22292 was near Mannheim, West Germany. Aircraft status: Crashed.

 

             Shown below, in the last known photograph of 74-22292 before take-off, the crew and passengers load up before the final flight.

 

         
74-22292 loading up passengers before the final flight.

 

             The City of Mannheim requested two Chinooks to drop sky divers at the Air Show for the 375th anniversary of the city. Although both helicopters arrived on schedule, instead of two Chinooks executing the mission, someone made the decision to only take one aircraft. The Para-jumpers desired to set a world record by forming the largest joined circle of free-falling sky divers ever accomplished. As a result, 46 people climbed aboard one Chinook. Since there were only 33 seats available in the cabin, 11 people remained standing. The aircraft took off without difficulty.

 

         
74-22292 on departure for the last time.

 

             The aircrew planned the drop at 13,000 feet. After climbing for about 12 minutes, to an estimated altitude of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, the tower received a message from the aircraft that a problem had developed and it was descending to land. About the same time, the pilot of the second aircraft, observing from the ground, saw 292 start down. Out of curiosity, he jumped in the cockpit of his aircraft and, on the company's private frequency, made contact with 292. He asked them if they were having any trouble. The pilot of 292 reported a flickering caution light, that a noise was heard, and they were coming down. After a few minutes of autorotation, 292 was set up to land on the runway.

 

         
The last air crew of 74-22292.

 

             At the last moment, the aircrew decided there were too many people in the area where they were trying to land. The aircraft was now at approximately 600 feet. The descent was halted in an attempt to cross the autobahn and land on the other side. When power was applied to arrest the descent, the in-flight break-up of the helicopter began. Witnesses on the ground reporting hearing a loud bang and describing a "whooshing" sound. The Aft Rotor Blades were observed departing the airframe. Shortly after the Aft Blades failed, the Aft Rotor Hub, along with half of the Aft Pylon separated from the fuselage.

 

         
74-22292 at one point five seconds before impact.

 

             A split second after half of the Aft Pylon separated, the Aft Transmission and the remaining portion of the Aft Pylon began to tear away from the airframe. The aircraft slowly rolled onto it's right side as it continued to descend. In the photograph below, about second before impact, one can see the body of one of the multi-national Para-jumpers as he is either thrown free or attempts to get clear of the aircraft, and in the inset at the lower right where he died on impact.

 

         
74-22292 at one half second before impact.

 

             74-22292 crashed onto the autobahn between Mannheim and Heidelberg, making contact on the helicopter's right side, in a slightly nose up attitude. Upon impact, 74-22292 burst into a huge fire ball, creating a glowing mushroom cloud above the impact site. The "G" force at impact was estimated at 200. An average 180 pound person aboard the helicopter would have been subjected to a force of 36,000 pounds. There is no doubt that death was instantaneous. At some point after the accident, the Flight Engineer assigned to 74-22292, who was crewing another aircraft that day in support of "REFORGER", saw what was left of his heavy metal tool box. Stamped permanently into the bottom of the box was a clear impression of a large open end wrench.

 

         
74-22292 at impact.

 

             The failure of the Forward Transmission Input Pinion Capsule caused the Number 1 Synchronized Drive Shaft to rotate eccentric and contact the Forward Pylon structure, causing the shaft to fail, followed by the subsequent de-synchronization of the Forward and Aft Rotor Systems. The Forward and Aft Rotor Blades meshed causing the Aft Pylon, Aft Transmission and the Aft Rotor System to separate from the helicopter with catastrophic results. The entire crew and all passengers received fatal injuries. Failure of the Input Pinion Capsule was caused by Walnut Grit blocking the oil journals inside the transmission. Walnut Grit was used to clean the transmission during the overhaul process.

 

              After the fire fighting foam was washed off the wreckage, all that remained was a pile of wreckage approximately 15 feet wide, 20 feet long, 4 feet high at it's highest point.

 

         
74-22292 after the fire was extinguished.

 

 

         
74-22292 on the side of the Autobahn.

 

 

         
Investigators sift through the wreckage of 74-22292 looking for clues as to the cause.

             Investigators from Fort Rucker kneel to examine parts of the Chinook, while a soldier from Mannheim watches. Standing on the right is Rey Ganado.

 

 

 

         
What is left of 74-22292 after the fire was put out.

         
   The horrible aftermath at the crash site. Click-N-Go Here to view a larger image.

 

 

 

             A story handed down through time via word of mouth was the failure of the Input Pinion Capsule was caused by walnut grit blocking the lubricating oil journals inside the transmission. For many years prior to this accident, walnut grit was successfully used as an effective cleaning agent for the transmissions during the overhaul process. It is softer than the base metal, but harder than the contaminants that accrue inside the transmission. Shortly prior to this accident a procedural change in the process was made. Inspectors working for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) examined the working conditions at Corpus Christi Army Depot. It was noted that high pressure air, approximately 3,000 PSI, was used to blow the walnut grit out of the oil journals. This high a pressure was deemed dangerous to workers and it was ordered that the pressure be lowered. As a result, the walnut grit was no longer completely removed during the cleaning procedure. Eventually, when the transmission was placed into service, the walnut grit would flow through the oil passages and accumulate in a point blocking a journal. A bearing would fail from the lack of lubrication.

 

             Whether or not the preceding paragraph was entirely true is not clear. What was known was that walnut grit did indeed block the oil journals and cause the failure of the Input Pinon Capsule. Flight Engineers serving in the Army from that time period reported that this accident resulted in a fleet wide grounding and inspection of all transmissions. They went on to report that most of the operational fleet contained walnut grit in many of the transmissions.

 

 

         
"The Stars and Stripes"

Volume 41, Number 174

          Saturday, 9 October 1982

          Clogged oil jets caused copter crash.

             WASHINGTON (AP) - Clogged oil jets caused the crash of an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter which killed 46 persons in Germany last month, according to preliminary findings announced Friday.

             The Army said this was determined by its safety experts and those of Boeing-Vertol, the helicopter's manufacturer, who investigated the crash which occurred near Mannheim on September 11th.

             In a brief announcement the Army said the accident resulted when oil jets in the forward transmission became clogged, causing a pinion gear assembly to fail. An Army specialist said this threw off the synchronization of the helicopter's rotor blades.

             The Army reported that other transmissions have the same assembly and could also be affected.

             Therefore, it said, all CH-47 helicopters with these transmissions remain grounded pending inspection. Army officials said about 400 helicopters are affected.

 

 

          "The Stars and Stripes"

          Thursday, 11 September 2003

 

             MANNHEIM, Germany - Dozens gathered Thursday at the Neuostheim airport to remember another 911 tragedy.

             On 11 September 1982, a CH-47C Chinook helicopter from the Coleman Barracks-based 295th Assault Support Helicopter Company was carrying skydivers from France, Germany and Wales when it plummeted 600 feet to the ground during an air show marking Mannheim's 375th anniversary.

             Forty-six people were killed, including seven U.S. troops. Five were Chinook crewmembers, while two others were American Forces Network soldiers assigned to cover the jump.

         
At a memorial plaque at the city airport in Mannheim, Germany, Peter Kibble-White finds the name of his son Paul, a Welsh skydiver who died in a U.S. helicopter crash on 11 September 1982.
   About two dozen family members and community leaders marked the 21st anniversary of the crash beside a carved stone obelisk adjacent to the airport entrance. The names of the dead are engraved on a marker at the foot of the memorial. The somber crowd then gathered in a nearby restaurant where some recalled the horror of watching their
          loved ones trapped inside the falling helicopter.

             That day, thousands of spectators had gathered to watch hot air balloons and free-fall exhibitions. The airborne Chinook, overloaded with skydivers, reported trouble and was descending back to the airfield when the tail rotor detached. It crashed on a nearby highway.

             A Chinook's front and rear rotor blades are synchronized to rotate together, without the blades hitting. Investigators later determined that parts on the front rotor failed, causing a desynchronization of the two rotors, according to a report published on the Internet. The rear rotor and its support structure were torn from the helicopter, causing it to fall, the report said.

             Witnesses recalled seeing a large burst of flames and a mushroom-shaped cloud. All of the crew and parachutists died upon impact, the report said. One parachutist, who either attempted to escape or was thrown free, fell to his death.

             From a cottage in North Wales, Peter Kibble-White learned from a television news report of the air disaster that killed his 29-year-old son, Paul.

   "It was terrible," he said. "Nine Welshmen died in the accident."

             After the crash, the World War II veteran took up skydiving to finish the jump his son and his comrades never completed, he said. And every year since, Kibble-White marks the anniversary of his son's death in Mannheim, along with families of other victims whom he has grown close to over the years, he said.

   "It does me good to meet with friends," Kibble-White said.

             One friend, Paul Lopez, a parachutist who served in Vietnam during France's campaigns in the early 1950s, carried an album of rare photos of the jumpers boarding the ill-fated flight. Among the 24 skydivers from Toulon, France, were his 19-year-old daughter, Marie-Paule, and 18-year-old son, Francis.

             "Everybody was watching the helicopter going up, but they did not see the people come out," Lopez said. "Everyone was asking, why don't they jump."

             The helicopter descended through a cloud, Lopez recalled, making a loud clanking noise. In a split second, it crashed to the ground, the elderly Lopez said, his eyes glazing over as he remembered dashing across the airfield toward the explosion, knowing his children did not escape.

             During the brief ceremony Thursday, U.S. Army Chaplain (Maj.) Brent Causey led the group in prayer. Voices of German teens from a local high school singing hymns in German and English were overpowered by the chopping rotor blades of a helicopter launching from the nearby airfield.

 

 

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