CH 53 down

Thierry Domin
First published in
SFOR Informer#144, August 1, 2002

On July 4, a German Sikorsky CH-53 G helicopter using the tactical call sign 84+54, was on a mission on mount Igman when the tail-rotor hit some trees. Fortunately, it was a small incident resulting in no injuries to those on board. It would be a great effort to repair the helicopter in the region of Bjelasnica where the event occurred as the site is located about 1,800 meters above sea level.
With good planning from the helicopter unit, and great help from the German pioneer company, aided by other units, the damaged - and repaired - helicopter was able to fly several days later back to the main base in Rajlovac.

Mount Igman - The crew of the helicopter 84+54 was transporting material to a mountain rescue station under the top of mount Igman. Pioneers had built this station from the German Battle Group located in Rajlovac. During a complicated manoeuvres at the mountain, the helicopter touched some trees with its tail-rotor. Despite the damage done to the tail-rotor, the pilots were able to land the large helicopter without difficulty on a mountain meadow near the station.
Other helos coming to the rescue
In order to repair the helicopter, aid had to come in via air as there was no path to the aircraft’s location. Any attempt to climb to the site, including the issue of mines, would have taken more than three hours.
Thanks to the assistance of another German helicopter, a BO 105, a systems engineer could be brought to the landing site. After his inspection and consultation with special units in Germany, the decision was made to repair the helicopter at the scene.
Two gearboxes from the tail-rotor, four tie-blades and other special parts had to be replaced. The work was difficult; this type of repair is normally done in helicopter-yards. Being in a mountainous location there was no logistical support. The help of the German pioneers was requested.
Pioneers on the spot
It appears there is no problem to great for the Pioneers to solve. An Explosive Ordnance Disposal team first cleared the scene, cutting down trees and shrubbery. With assistance from the German and Italian helicopters, all material were brought to the hill. A CH-53 G transported by cargo-sling brought in the required materials in a maritime container.
The Pioneers built a special landing site as well as a working platform with a mobile crane positioned on top. The size of the platform was 10 metres x 10 metres, and fit perfectly with the shape and position of the damaged CH 53.
Two C-160 (Transall) aircraft carrying spare parts, and specialists from Germany, arrived in Sarajevo. Throughout the following two days, the complicated exchange of the parts was done. After a thorough inspection, the helicopter was finally able to fly. The pioneers then dismantled the working platform.
On July 11, after seven days in the region of Bjelasnica a remarkable job had been done by the mechanics, and the crew of the 84+54 was able to fly back to Rajlovac safely. Once there, other inspections showed that the CH-53 was well repaired.
From this date, the damaged tie-rotor is kept at Rajlovac Airport as a trophy. It is a kind of tribute to all the pilots, mechanics and engineers that made the rescue possible.
According to the leader of the German helicopter unit the event had a positive outcome.
"All of the people involved in the situation convinced us of their capability by showing a great display of professionalism and high motivation," he said emphatically.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Germany
SFOR at Work

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Photos: Courtesy of German Battle Group

Assistance comes from the sky; a CH 53 G helicopter brings in much needed equipment for repairs.


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When the platform cannot be used the mechanics use a double ladder.


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The improvised platform built by the German pioneers is perfectly fitted for the needs of the mechanics.


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Damage on the rear tail rotor can be seen in this picture.