Navy, National Guard Begin Helicopter Salvage Operation
Green Bank, WV – Weather permitting, the U.S. Navy and the Army National Guard will spend Wenesday salvaging the Knighthawk Navy helicopter that crashed near Pocahontas County’s Cheat Mountain in February.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank is serving as the staging ground and command center for the airlift and transport of the wreckage. Blackhawk and Chinook helicopter crews began landing at the observatory late Tuesday morning to prepare for the operation. NRAO Business Manager Michael Holstine describes what will be happening today.
“The big thing is that they are going to airlift the bulk of the aircraft using the big Chinook,” said Holstine. “[They will] basically sling it on a big aerial line and fly it back over here to the airstrip, set it down, and we’ll use our crane and forklift to help them get it onto flatbeds.”
While military aircraft regularly fly over the mountains of Pocahontas County, Holstine says Wednesday’s operation will likely be louder than what some residents are used to. The twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook is the heaviest lifting helicopter used by the U.S. Army.
“The Blackhawks make some noise,” said Holstine, “but it’s probably nothing like the Chinook is going to make. It’ll be a pretty big unit.”
Holstine says the salvage operation will bring to a close the episode of the crash that left 17 Navy and National Guard servicemen stranded on a mountainside in the midst of one of the harshest winters the area has seen. Battling deep snow, local rescue crews worked through the night and successfully transported all the servicemen from the crash site within 24 hours of the crash.
“You know, it’s probably the last part of this whole operation,” Holstine said. “I think that [the Army National Guard and the Navy] will be glad to get it behind them. We just want to help them do everything that they can to get the last pieces out of there.”