Navy committed to sticking with Sea Dragon after 4th accident in two years

Posted at 11:29 PM, Jan 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-10 00:03:45-05

Rotor blades, side panels, and metal pieces large and small are all part of the floating wreckage site where a Navy Sea Dragon helicopter crashed on Wednesday.

Navy officials confirm the crew from Helimeron 14, known as the “World Famous Vanguard,” was performing routine mine countermeasure training.

It includes flying with a minesweeper sled attached to the helicopter by a cable.

Former members of the squadron tell NewsChannel 3 they fly low to the water during this training, about 50-75 feet above the surface.

The Navy has not yet said if this training had anything to do with the Sea Dragon plunging into the Atlantic.

After Wednesday's crash off Virginia Beach, Sea Dragons have now been involved in four accidents in just the last two years.

Back in 2012, two Sea Dragons experienced engine failures and in-flight fires during deployments to South Korea and Bahrain, resulting in total destruction of the multi-million dollar aircraft.

In July of that same year, two Norfolk-based sailors were killed after a Sea Dragon crashed during a heavy lift operation in Oman.

Closer to home, NewsChannel 3's own cameras have captured a Sea Dragon making an emergency landing in Virginia Beach due to mechanical problems.

But right now, the Navy says they have no replacement for these helicopters.

And since they don't plan on buying any new ones, they are investing millions to keep up the ones they have.

“Over last two years, we have invested significant resources into program, in training and equipment, to make sure this aircraft continues to be viable,” said Captain Todd Flannery.

Wednesday’s crash was the first in recent memory to happen during mine countermeasure training.

A mishap board has been convened to look at all the factors that could have caused this Sea Dragon to crash.

Click here to read NewsChannel 3's full coverage of this incident.