Helicopters that crashed off Oahu known as powerful, agile - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

ADVERTISEMENT
Bookmark and Share

Helicopters that crashed off Oahu known as powerful, agile

Image Source: U.S. Marine Corps Image Source: U.S. Marine Corps
Image Source: U.S. Marine Corps Image Source: U.S. Marine Corps
Retired Marine pilot Capt. Peter Starn flew Sea Stallions in Vietnam. The choppers have since largely been replaced by Super Stallions. Retired Marine pilot Capt. Peter Starn flew Sea Stallions in Vietnam. The choppers have since largely been replaced by Super Stallions.
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

CH53E helicopters like the ones that collided off Oahu’s North Shore late Thursday are the heaviest and most powerful in the U.S. military inventory.

The Marines have been using the helicopters – known as Super Stallions – for more than three decades to transport service members and materials. 

The helicopters replaced the Sea Stallions that retired Marine pilot Capt. Peter Starn flew in Vietnam.

"The Super Stallion has a third engine and a seventh rotor blade," he said. "So it has much greater lift than the Sea Stallion did,"

According to the Marines, the heavy-lift helicopters can carry a 26,000-pound light armored vehicle or 16 tons of cargo.

But despite their size, they’re also fairly agile. The Super Stallion can reach 175 miles an hour and maneuvers like a smaller aircraft.

"So when the Marines need something heavy moved, that is their tool," said military aviation expert Rex Rivolo, chief technology officer with Flight Test Aerospace, Inc.

Retired Marine Sgt. Matt Stanley processed helicopter maintenance logs at Kaneohe Marine base. He said the Corps is fastidious about aircraft inspections.

"There are pre-flight inspections. There's walkarounds. There's daily inspections. There's hourly inspections, weekly, monthly. Everything is to a T," he said.

Starn said Marine pilots fly in formations and in a "tail chase" array, where one helicopter follows another. He said night flying requires pilots to use lights off other helicopters as their reference points.

"Out over the ocean at night I would expect them to be in loose formation with a fair amount of distance, just because it is nighttime and it's hard to see," he said.

The Super Stallion has an infrared device mounted in the front of the helicopter for navigating at night.

The military confirmed Friday that the pilots of the helicopters were training with night vision goggles, in near total darkness.  

Retired Colonel Ray L'Heureux says mastering night vision is tricky.

"When you have these on your helmet the field of view, as you're looking out of the cock pit or out of the side door in the sense of a crew chief, is about 30 degrees, so your head has to be on a swivel. If I want to see something over here I actually have to turn my head over."

L'Heureux recalls his tactical training flights in the Mojave Desert.

"You're flying at very low altitudes over the desert and you've got these night vision goggles on, it's beautiful. You're flying in the desert and it turns day into night and you just peek under those goggles and its just pitch black."

Sea Stallions, which have been largely retired. were involved in two fatal crashes tied to Hawaii.

In 2012, six Hawaii based Marines were killed in a crash in Afghanistan. In 2011, a Marine died during a training mission at the Kaneohe Sandbar.

According to military.com, the Marines have about 150 Super Stallions worldwide.

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly