Retired Kiowa pilot discusses crash over Lewis-McChord base

Dec 14, 2011
Originally published on December 13, 2011 5:17 pm

THURSTON COUNTY, Wash. – The bodies of four Washington-based Army helicopter pilots have been recovered from the wreckage of two military choppers that went down on a training flight. The crash happened Monday night under reportedly clear skies over Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

An Army spokesman says the pilots were flying OH-58 Kiowa helicopters and would have been using night vision goggles. It's not clear yet if this was a mid-air collision.

Retired Kiowa pilot Justin Rich says flying with night vision is like looking through a paper towel tube.

"So where you're used to more of a peripheral vision and the whole picture in the daylight, your vision field goes down to basically where you're looking at night," he says.

The Kiowa is a small, nimble helicopter that's used extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq for surveillance and convoy security. It dates back to the Vietnam era. Rich says they typically fly in pairs.

"And there will be a lead ship and a trail ship," he explains. "The one would be behind and usually a little bit higher or a little bit lower."

Military police blocked access to the crash site, but a spokesman described the debris field as fairly contained. The names of the aviators killed in this crash have not yet been released.

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