Local media in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture have reported the crash of a helicopter today, just before noon local time. According to the Okinawa Times, the CH-53 went down near Takae. Local emergency personnel were called. So far, there have been no reports of any fatalities, though the Okinawa Times article did mention U.S. personnel on their way to the hospital.
SOFREP has a long and arduous history with hard landings and helicopter crashes. Many of our staff have been in helicopter crashes; sometimes it feels like they are machines built to fall out of the sky. Our own James Powell has personally been in two crashes–one in a CH-53 and the other in a CH-46. Both seemed to be a result of a mechanical failure.
I’ve never been in a helo crash, but I vividly remember one hard landing in particular. The MH-47, piloted by some less experienced pilots, were flying us through Afghanistan. They came to a hover, flaring the helicopter back as usual. We began our descent slowly and carefully, though I could feel the bird wobbling as the pilot must have been lacking confidence in his skills. Maybe 10 feet off the ground he paused, then the helicopter suddenly dropped–it was as if he just shut off the engines and let it fall. We slammed into the ground, and everyone inside went flying. Thankfully we were all tethered to the bottom, but with well over a thousand pounds of equipment cumulatively strapped to our bodies, equipment flew into each other’s faces and bodies like we were in some kind of nightmarish pinball machine.
No one was hurt, and the helicopter managed to limp away without any serious issues. This was a very underwhelming but eye-opening experience. In an actual crash where the structure of the helicopter is compromised and the personnel inside are even more violently tossed around–it’s no wonder the survival rate for helo crashes is so low. People are still just delicate flesh strapped inside a metal box, flying at ungodly speeds.
With that said, the reports of the CH-53 crash in Japan have thus far reported zero fatalities.
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.