Soldiers with the Alaska Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment rescued two stranded men and a pilot on a moose hunting trip last fall after their plane crashed near St. Mary’s, Alaska.
The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center (AKRCC) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was contacted by a commercial air taxi service after the pilot of the aircraft activated his SPOT personal satellite beacon and reported the crash. The AKRCC contacted the Alaska Army National Guard to request assistance from the aviation unit in Bethel.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and aircrew from the 1-207th departed the Army National Guard’s Army Aviation Operating Facility (AAOF) in Bethel around 9 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2018.
“The pilot had a SPOT beacon and satellite phone, which helped tremendously with finding their location and being able to help them out as quickly as possible,” said CPT Andrew Adams, the Black Hawk pilot and commander of the AAOF.
CPT Adams said the AAOF was informed that the passengers had been moose hunting, and after harvesting the moose, they flew back to their vehicles to drop off their gear. They were headed back to pick up the carcass when the crash occurred.
“We found them on a hillside near the ridge line with the plane flipped over,” CPT Adams said.
“They didn’t have any of their gear, so they weren’t prepared for the elements and had no source for a fire. They were huddled near the fuselage under a tarp or cover waiting for us, and it had become pretty dark at that point.”
CPT Adams said the Guard team was able to communicate with the pilot en route to the accident location, allowing them to discuss protocols once the helicopter landed. The pilot agreed to flash lights from the plane headlamps when he and his passengers saw the incoming helicopter.
“It saved time, although we already had the exact coordinates,” CPT Adams said. “It was just helpful to be able to see them as they waited for us.”
Alaska State Troopers were waiting to assist the pilot and passengers after the Guard team delivered them to the AAOF.
The AKRCC requests that all pilots traveling in Alaska have an emergency locater beacon on their aircraft and supplies for long-term survival. A satellite phone is also highly recommended.
The AKRCC and the 1-207th Aviation Battalion were awarded three saves for this mission.
By LTC Candis Olmstead, Alaska National Guard