Local News

Fallen Chopper Had Ax

Posted July 14, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— WRAL-TV5 News has learned that the Black Hawk helicopter which crashed last week was carrying auxiliary fuel tanks.

The Army often equips its Black Hawks with the torpedo-shaped tanks to provide longer range. The tanks hang on both sides of the chopper and can be dropped in case of an emergency.

The chopper that went down last week was carrying the extra tanks, but at this point, Army officials won't say if they had fuel in them, if they were dropped, or if they ruptured. Officials have said that an inferno engulfed the downed aircraft.

The Army Safety Center says that there have been two crashes where auxiliary fuel tanks burst, but there have been many crashes wherein they have not.

An engineer at the Safety Center says that the fuel tanks have "a very good safety record." He calls them "extremely durable."

But experts say that the auxiliary fuel tanks can't withstand the same impact as the internal tank.

Investigators in the Fort Bragg accident will not only look at what caused the crash, but also what happened on impact. Ultimately, their goal is to determine if any changes in design need to be made.