An AH-64A Apache helicopter is doing maneuvers at Fort Campbell, KY.
Pilot: Think we can make it through there?

Gunner: Nope.
Pilot: Oh ye of little faith, look how big that is.

Aaaaand just like that a $52 million dollar aircraft was grounded.

The aircraft sustained over $1 million in damage. The pilots made it out and the aircraft was returned to service.

Here’s the backstory on the crash from the June ’98 FlightFax magazine.

“I once served on an AH-64 accident investigation board. Shortly after arriving at the scene of the accident, we were handed the tape from the aircraft’s video recorder. After viewing the tape, I knew we were dealing with cowboys. An accident had been inevitable during this flight; it wasn’t a question of “if” an accident was going to happen, only “when.”

The mission was a single-ship, day ATM training flight for an officer who had not flown much but was scheduled to deploy on a JRTC rotation. The training was to include high- and low-level reconnaissance, low-level flight, and nap-of-the-earth flight with target-engagement operations. The crew was briefed to conduct the flight in the local training area utilizing several different sectors and transition corridors.

As part of preflight planning, the crew checked the weather, computed aircraft performance data, and assessed the risks associated with the mission. Additionally, they conducted all mission and crew briefings. The crew then filed their flight plan and completed the preflight inspection of the Apache.

It was about 1400 when they took off. The PC, who was also a unit IP, was in the back seat on the controls, and the CP was in the front seat. They conducted ATM training consisting of low-level and NOE operations in several different training areas. They also practiced multiple target engagements and high- and low-recon of landing zones. This training was completely documented on the aircraft’s videotape. The video also showed the PC operating the aircraft as low as 3 feet agl at 26 knots between trees and wires beside common-use roads. At one point, the copilot was heard to say, “Yeeeeeee haaaaaaaa!” as the PC completed a return-to-target maneuver.

The crew continued their flight along a common-use roadway until arriving at one of the large drop zones scattered around the reservation. The PC turned the aircraft left to a heading of about 320 degrees toward a stand of trees. As the aircraft approached the trees, the PC noted a gap in the trees and asked the copilot, “Do you think we can make it between there?”
The copilot answered, “Nope.”
The PC then remarked, “Sure we can. Look how big it is. Oh, ye of little faith.”

At 1532 hours, immediately after the PC’s remarks, the No. 4 main rotor blade struck a 2 1⁄2- inch-diameter limb, breaking off an 8 1⁄2-inch piece of the blade. The Nos. 2 and 3 main rotor blades also struck the tree. The aircraft shuddered violently, but the aircrew was able to land in an open field and exit the aircraft unassisted.

The aircraft was at 16 feet agl and 76 knots when it struck the tree, resulting in more than $1 million in damage to the aircraft.

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Lawrence Bates
Lawrence Bates
3 years ago

Obviously never heard of helicopter logging, have you? Lol

Howard A Sutherland
Howard A Sutherland
2 years ago

Should leave tree trimming to Asplundh Tree Service.

Michael Charles Flagg
Michael Charles Flagg
2 years ago

It has also been reported that the pilot had made that opening previously, but did not account for tree growth/branch spread and it bit him in the blades