Local Chinook Pilot on Deadly Helicopter Crash - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/01/06

Local Chinook Pilot on Deadly Helicopter Crash

Gaster points to a painting of a Chinook. Gaster points to a painting of a Chinook.

Ray Gaster of Savannah flew Chinooks during the Vietnam War. The news about the deadly Chinook crash in Georgia (Hunter AAF Helicopter Down in Southwest Georgia) hit home for him.

"My heart goes out to the crew and their families," he said. "Anytime I hear of something, especially a Chinook, it leaves a hollowness inside you. This is a plane I flew for a year of my life. It's a terrible tragedy."

The MH-47 Special Ops Chinook which crashed today flew into a television tower's guy wire. Gaster says that's one of the risks that comes with flying helicopters.

"You'd see the tower, but seeing the wires is next to impossible," he said. "You just have to steer clear of them."

He says when the wires and the rotors make contact, it's bad news. "The aircraft itself is a very durable, flyable and safe aircraft, and you hit a wire and all of a sudden it becomes an unstable piece of rock that's going to fall in a hurry."

Four soldiers of the Third Battalion 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment died in this crash; a fifth was treated and released from a hospital.

"Having one shot down, that's part of the risk you take," said Gaster. "But when you have something where they hit a wire, those are the ones that are hard to take, because it's almost like it shouldn't have happened."

The military is looking into why the crash happened. A spokesman for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is expected to be in Savannah tomorrow.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com

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