On the Line – Bird-strike

by Steve on July 15, 2007

LT Susan Gordon gazed out to sea over the vast expanse of the Atlantic as she piloted her twin turbine-powered SH-60 Seahawk helicopter. She and her crew had just completed a functional check flight on aircraft 611 returning it to flight status for her squadron, VX-1, based at Patuxent River Naval Air Station on the western shore of the Chesapeake. As she stared at the horizon to the east she thought of her Ted out there somewhere as the Reagan completed another workup cycle. Pretty soon he would be leaving on a full deployment for six months… again. She understood that better than any of the other wives in Ted’s squadron since she wore the same uniform as her husband. Only the gold wings were different. Hers had a single anchor, the wings of a Naval Aviator. His had the smaller, crossed anchors of a Naval Flight Officer. Life had been good in Jacksonville for even though she and Ted flew different aircraft, both had been based in the Jacksonville area. The move to Virginia had proved a bit more challenging with Susan assigned to Pax River and Ted destined for a staff job in the Norfolk area. Ted still had a cruise with VS-28 in Reagan but as soon as the ship came home he had orders to Carrier Air Wing Six staff based at NAS Oceana. They had found a fixer-upper on a few acres which the realtor optimistically described as a “charming little farm in the Virginia tidewater.” It was a long haul for both of them and they would each be spending some nights on base at the BOQ but they accepted such sacrifices as part of their careers. The property had frontage on a creek that fed into the Rappahannock River. It also had a small dock and even a duck blind out in the sea grass. That had clinched the deal for Ted. Susan smiled at the thought of their yellow Labrador waiting for her to come home.

“Navy 611, Washington Center. Your block in the warning area has expired. Say your intentions.”

“Center, Navy 611 is complete in the area, request visual approach at Pax River,” Susan’s co-pilot replied.

“Navy 611, descend to fifteen hundred feet, contact Approach on two-three-one-point-five with your request.”

“Center, Navy 611. Switching two-three-one-point-five.”

Susan didn’t see the soaring gull until it was too late. It flashed across her canopy and was swallowed by the intake of the right-hand General Electric T700 engine. The five-pound bird hit the fan blades of the turbine and was instantly turned to a pulp but the damage had been done. The fourteenth and fifteenth blades of the turbine section broke loose and were ingested by the compressor stage which also started shedding blades. The spinning engine quickly developed a fatal out-of-balance condition and began eating itself as over sixteen hundred horsepower self-destructed. Susan instinctively shut off fuel and hydraulics to the dying engine as her co-pilot broadcast on Center’s frequency: “Navy 611, Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. Bird strike fifteen miles east of…” The engine disintegrated slinging metal fan and compressor blades through the cockpit and the remaining good engine. LT Susan Gordon and her crew mercifully never felt a thing and were dead long before what was left of the Seahawk impacted the ocean.

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{ 1 comment }

Michelle August 1, 2007 at 14:58

Ouch!
Not meant in the obvious way, but emotionally … just getting to know her and GONE! Yikes!

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