News Branch Army

Alaska helicopter collision happened in mountain pass, investigation finds

Two Army Apache helicopters were flying slowly in the mountains as part of a larger group of aircraft when the crash happened, the report said.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
U.S. Army AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter assigned to 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB), June 3, 2019. (U.S. Army)

Two U.S. Army Apache helicopters that collided with each other in April, killing three soldiers, were traveling through a mountain pass in Alaska at the time of the crash.

Those new details come from the Associated Press, which shared the Army’s findings on Friday, Dec. 15. According to Department of Defense regulation, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, which led the investigation, does not release its recommendations. However, the AP received the report following a records request with the Army. 

The shared report does not go into detail about what might have caused the April 27 collision, but it gives more details for the flight leading up to it. The two AH-64 Apache helicopters were part of a 14-aircraft flight, flying from the Donnelly Training Area to Fort Wainwright after a training operation. According to the investigation, the collision happened approximately 48 minutes into the flight, near the town of Healy, Alaska.

“As the flight of 14 aircraft entered the mountain pass, aircraft in the flight began to decelerate,” the investigation found. Shortly after they entered the pass, one Apache collided with another, forcing both to crash into the ground.

Subscribe to Task & Purpose Today. Get the latest military news and culture in your inbox daily.

The three soldiers killed were Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Robert Eramo, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle D. McKenna and Warrant Officer 1 Stewart Duane Wayment. A fourth soldier was injured in the collision. Each Apache helicopter held two soldiers. Both helicopters and their crew were assigned to 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation based at Fort Wainwright. The Army had previously said that weather conditions on April 27 were good, as was visibility.

However, the report given to the Associated Press contains several heavily redacted components, leaving much of the details surrounding the collision unclear. The redacted pieces include the analysis of the crash and any recommendations from the Army in response. 

As a result of the collision, the Army ordered a 24-hour stand down for all of its aerial units.

The collision in Alaska was one of several deadly helicopter mishaps this year. Prior to the deaths near Healy, nine soldiers with the 101st Airborne died when two Army HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Kentucky. Since the April 27 crash there have been several more killed in aircraft crashes. In November, five members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment died when their MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed over the Mediterranean Sea during a training operation. 

The latest on Task & Purpose