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Marines Ground Helicopters After 6 Killed in Accidents

September 16, 1993|CATHERINE GEWERTZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Marine Corps has temporarily grounded all 124 of its AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters at bases across the country in the wake of two California accidents last week in which six men were killed, officials said Wednesday.

Lt. Kim Miller, a Marine spokeswoman in Washington, confirmed that the Naval Air Systems Command recommended on Monday that all flight operations involving the Super Cobra attack helicopters, made by the Bell Helicopters division of Textron Inc., be discontinued. She said all units are complying with that recommendation.

Miller said flights involving the helicopter have been suspended pending final analysis of two accidents that occurred within 24 hours, one at Montgomery Field in San Diego and the other at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Cpl. Stephen N. Ongley, a spokesman from El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, confirmed that Super Cobra flights have "temporarily ceased," but added that the craft may still be flown in cases of "urgent operational contingencies."

He said a recommendation from the Naval Air Systems Command is not an order, but a "strong suggestion" with which units are complying.

Three Marines and an Army pilot were killed Sept. 8 when two Cobras collided while taking part in a military exercise at the Marine Corps training base at Twentynine Palms. Two other Marines died less than 24 hours later in the crash of another Cobra near San Diego.

On Aug. 16, two men--one a civilian photographer--were killed in a midair collision of two Marine helicopters over the ocean off Dana Point. One of the aircraft was a UH-1N Huey helicopter and the other was a Super Cobra based at Camp Pendleton.

However, officials didn't cite the Aug. 16 incident as a factor in the decision to ground the Super Cobras.

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