Two Utah National Guard Black Hawk helicopters were involved in a training accident just outside the boundaries of Snowbird Ski Resort Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. No one was injured, but the Utah National Guard has suspended all training flights until further notice while it reviews safety protocols. Photo courtesy of Cory Inman/Twitter.
Skiers in Utah whipped out their phones Tuesday, Feb. 22, for a chance to record two Utah National Guard Black Hawk helicopters flying through the peaks and valleys around Snowbird Ski Resort.
Nearly all reacted in shock as the helicopters disappeared into a “whiteout” cloud kicked up by their own rotors and then appeared to crash onto the slopes.
Videos posted to social media in the hours after the incident captured both the mishap itself and the shocked curses it elicited from skiers.
“They crashed! They fucking crashed,” a man observing the scene from a ski lift tells his buddy in one of the many videos of the accident shared online. “No way, dude.”
“Shit,” his buddy adds a moment later.
— EmergencyStream (@EmergencyStream) February 22, 2022
None of the crew members — nor any of the dozens of skiers nearby — were injured, according to authorities.
Utah National Guard spokesman Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jared Jones said the incident happened around 9:30 a.m. during a standard winter training exercise on US Forest Service land about 150 yards from Snowbird Ski Resort. The incident is under investigation, but during a press briefing later Tuesday, Jones said fresh overnight snow had “kicked up” as the Black Hawks went in for their landings, and the pilots had “probably lost sight of the ground.”
Jones said that, based on his observations of videos of the incident, it appeared the first helicopter had crashed, snapping off its rotor blades. A piece of that helicopter’s main rotor blade, Jones said, appeared to have then struck the second helicopter, forcing it down.
Video captures moment two U.S National Guard Black Hawk helicopters collide during a training exercise in the Snowbird ski resort, Utah. No injuries reported. https://t.co/iXFq5bwFgx pic.twitter.com/1bbNUJdJvR
— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@aviationbrk) February 22, 2022
“Whiteouts” are common hazards for helicopters hovering or flying low in mountains and over other snowy terrains, particularly with fresh powder-type snow. Pilots can become disoriented as clouds of snow kicked up by rotor wash envelop the aircraft. The phenomenon is akin to the “brownouts” that plagued US helicopters for two decades in the desertlike conditions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The helicopters’ crew members transported themselves to the base of the mountain using the resort’s tram.
Another video was shot by Maj. Tom Carney, a retired Air Force flight nurse, as he and his friend Cory Inman paused at a high spot on the ski slopes to watch the helicopters, which were well below them. Then, a boom echoed through the canyon in the Mineral Basin area.
“Oh, that one just crashed. Holy shit, it just crashed,” one of the men says.
Here is a video of the Blackhawks crashing while we were riding down Mineral Basin around 9:30 am. Military buddy I was riding with recognized the Hawks coming in to land. So far sounds like everyone was ok from what we’ve heard. Thankfully! Video cred: Tom Carney #snowbird pic.twitter.com/JKTAqndqdE
— Cory Inman (@IM_Inman) February 22, 2022
Skiers in another video appeared to initially laugh at the massive clouds of snow being stirred up by the Black Hawks, but the chortles morph into a gasps of “holy shit” when the first helicopter hits the ground.
According to local media, the Utah National Guard has canceled all training flights until further notice so it can review safety protocols and regulations.
“Aviation is an inherently dangerous business, and we train to a high standard,” Jones said. “We do train on that edge so that we’re ready for a combat environment anywhere in the world. And the crew assume some level of risk. Every time you go fly a helicopter, there’s a little bit of danger involved. I’m just happy that everyone is okay.”
Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear gassed during the 2020-2021 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.
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