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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 20, 2001

Army grounded choppers because of faulty blade pin

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Two-thirds of the Army's 49 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in Hawai'i were grounded in June after problems were discovered nationwide with blade pins made by one manufacturer.

The pins are used to secure the aircraft's main rotor blades to the rotor head.

The Black Hawks are being phased back into service as replacement parts become available, but a few are still grounded, the Army said.

No accidents were caused by cracks found in some of the blade pins, said Capt. Stacy Bathrick, a spokeswoman for the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and U.S. Army, Hawai'i.

The June grounding caused a training slowdown, "but we are continuing to ensure our flight crews maintain their proficiency in the aircraft that have received the blade pins, and those Black Hawks are continuing to perform missions," Bathrick said.

The Army said the faulty pins had no connection to a Feb. 12 accident in which two Black Hawks collided during a night training exercise near Kahuku. All six soldiers aboard one of the choppers died in the accident, and 11 others were injured.

As many as 160 of the Army's fleet of 1,600 Sikor-sky Black Hawks were grounded after blade pins within a certain lot manufactured by Apex Manufacturing were found to have a material "nonconformance" that could lead to cracking. The pins, made from hardened steel, prevent the blades from separating from the main rotor hub.

The 25th Infantry Division (Light) received a message in June from the Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., saying suspect pins from the manufacturer should be replaced.

Of the Black Hawks in Hawai'i, 41 belong to the 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment. The remaining belong to the 68th Medical Evacuation Company. All are based at Wheeler Army Airfield.

The 68th Medical Evacuation Co., which provides 24-hour medical evacuation for military and civilians on O'ahu through the Military Assistance to Safety and Traffic program, was the first unit to receive the replacement pins.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.