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Rotors In The Sand
by Don Harvel

Overview


June 28, 1972, the day I reported to the United Stated Military Academy at West Point, one of our class's first military acts was to subscribe to the Cadet Code of Conduct, swearing not to lie, cheat or steal … nor tolerate among us anyone who does. I also pledged, as a cadet, and later as an officer, to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States. Any future allegiance I incurred fell subordinate to these two.

Perhaps that's why I developed an affinity to the flying safety field which resides in a sacred niche within the sphere of flying. At the pinnacle of this citadel of truth resides the accident investigation process … where there is no room or tolerance for politics or innuendo. I accepted the job to investigate the April 9th, 2010 CV-22 Osprey accident with reservations concerning the magnitude of the task and the inherent barriers preventing the collection of evidence a half-a-world away. But I failed to account for the obstacles of full disclosure, politics, and the reluctance of the same entities that assigned me the task, to accept the controversial findings of the investigation. If, at this point, you have read the first few pages of this book looking for an indictment of the government, Air Force, or the contractors who supply weapons of war, put the book back on the shelf … or click "remove" from the digital cart. This is no vendetta, tell-all, hatchet job. This book is about facts and truth.

Over a period of five months, the Air Force CV-22 accident investigation board traveled thousands of miles, interviewed over one hundred witnesses, and collected mounds of evidence in an inhospitable environment searching for the reason an Osprey aircraft impacted the ground in the remote desert of eastern Afghanistan. The accident took the lives of four personnel aboard the accident airplane. The following pages chronicle the unpublished and exhaustive investigation process. This book tells the truth about what really happened to cause the accident. The book is educational and very inspirational! 

Read more

Description


April 9, 2010 Approximate Local Time – Midnight in Afghanistan Twenty-five hundred feet over Taliban-held territory in southern Afghanistan, three U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft droned through the inky black sky. The mission of the forty-eight U.S. Army Special Forces, Third Battalion, Seventy-Fifth Rangers aboard the airplanes was to engage in direct action with the enemy. The Air Force crews' mission – insert the Army troops close to their objective, a landing zone (LZ) near the town of Qalat in eastern Afghanistan.

Major Randell Voas, a Minnesota native and twenty-year veteran commanding military helicopters, led the three-ship formation on the planned fourteen-minute trip. With a layer of high clouds obscuring the night sky, screens on his instrument panel burned green with aircraft performance and navigation information, the only visible illumination. In the cockpit, the navigation page revealed their progress – late. Anticipating the descent for landing, Voas adjusted his night vision goggles and keyed the microphone switch on his control column advising his formation of an updated time over target (TOT). The new TOT would have the three CV-22s landing on the LZ at forty minutes after midnight. Approximately twenty miles from the LZ, Voas reduced power, allowing the nose of the aircraft to fall toward the obscured horizon. He trimmed pressure on the control stick to neutral for the gradual letdown to a lower altitude. Level at six hundred feet above the ground and two minutes out, an A-10 Thunderbolt II orbiting above illuminated (sparkled) the LZ. The crew, expecting a single shaft of light to identify their objective, instead watched multiple rays of infrared energy streak toward the planned touchdown point. The copilot leaned forward in his seat questioning what he saw. With no apparent concern, Voas acknowledged and modified his crosscheck, focusing on the TOT and the approach to landing. At three miles and one minute from landing, the trio of aircraft descended to three hundred feet above the ground. The troops in the rear of the airplane acknowledged the "one-minute" advisory from the CV-22 tail scanner and took a knee facing the open ramp and door, preparing for a rapid egress once on the ground.

Descending into a valley and drifting away from their desired track, the crew noted an unexpected wind shift and corrected their heading to remain on course. At two and a half miles to landing, Voas slowed to approach speed, and tilted the nacelles on the ends of the CV-22's stubby wings toward the vertical, altering their configuration from airplane to helicopter mode. The flight engineer lowered the landing gear. Hydraulic fluid compressed to 5000 psi (pounds per square inch) hissed through stainless steel lines to release the up locks fixing the landing gear assemblies into the wheel wells. Giant pistons ported fluid that extended the landing gear into position with an audible clunk. Suddenly, at one hundred feet above ground, the airplane's nose unexpectedly pitched earthward in a rapid rate of descent. Unable to arrest the aircraft's vertical velocity or his speed over the ground, and with the plane headed for the center of a deep gully, Voas elected to abandon a vertical helicopter landing in favor of a seldom-practiced emergency maneuver. With his speed slightly exceeding ninety knots, he opted to land like any fixed-wing airplane, rolling the wheels onto the desert floor.

Nearing touchdown, and amid a cacophony of aural electronic altitude warnings, the tempo of cockpit conversation intensified. What caused the Osprey to suddenly fall out of the sky? Could Major Voas avert the pending disaster? The story of this accident would become a political lightning rod for over a decade. Read this exciting book to find out why.

Read more

About the author


Brigadier General (Retired) Don Harvel, United States Air Force

Don was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He left Albuquerque in 1972 to attend the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. After graduation, he was commissioned into the United States Air Force and assigned to pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. His first flying assignment after pilot training was flying C-130 aircraft at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. In April 1982, he was reassigned as an Instructor Pilot flying C-130's with the Aircrew Training and Test Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. In 1985, Don left active duty and joined the Texas Air National Guard as a C-130 pilot. He was also hired by a commercial airline and started a twenty-five year "dual career" as an Air National guard pilot and a commercial airline pilot.

His military assignments included Commander of the 181st Airlift Squadron, Commander of the 136th Operations Group, and Commander of the 136th Airlift Wing. He participated in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Don was promoted to Brigadier General in 2008 and was assigned to be the Deputy Commander of the Texas Air National Guard. During that time, he also served as the Director of the Commander's Development Course (Andrews Air Force Base, Washington D.C. and the Air National Guard Assistant to the Commander of Air Force Special Operations.

He retired from the military in September of 2010 with 34 years of military service. During his airline career (34 years), Don flew the Boeing 727, 737, 757, 767, and 777. He has logged over 25,000 hours as a military and commercial pilot. He retired from commercial flying in August of 2019.

Don and his family reside in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Read more

Book details

Genre:HISTORY

Subgenre:Military / Special Forces

Language:English

Pages:400

Format:Paperback

eBook ISBN:9781098303334

Paperback ISBN:9781098303327


Overview


June 28, 1972, the day I reported to the United Stated Military Academy at West Point, one of our class's first military acts was to subscribe to the Cadet Code of Conduct, swearing not to lie, cheat or steal … nor tolerate among us anyone who does. I also pledged, as a cadet, and later as an officer, to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States. Any future allegiance I incurred fell subordinate to these two.

Perhaps that's why I developed an affinity to the flying safety field which resides in a sacred niche within the sphere of flying. At the pinnacle of this citadel of truth resides the accident investigation process … where there is no room or tolerance for politics or innuendo. I accepted the job to investigate the April 9th, 2010 CV-22 Osprey accident with reservations concerning the magnitude of the task and the inherent barriers preventing the collection of evidence a half-a-world away. But I failed to account for the obstacles of full disclosure, politics, and the reluctance of the same entities that assigned me the task, to accept the controversial findings of the investigation. If, at this point, you have read the first few pages of this book looking for an indictment of the government, Air Force, or the contractors who supply weapons of war, put the book back on the shelf … or click "remove" from the digital cart. This is no vendetta, tell-all, hatchet job. This book is about facts and truth.

Over a period of five months, the Air Force CV-22 accident investigation board traveled thousands of miles, interviewed over one hundred witnesses, and collected mounds of evidence in an inhospitable environment searching for the reason an Osprey aircraft impacted the ground in the remote desert of eastern Afghanistan. The accident took the lives of four personnel aboard the accident airplane. The following pages chronicle the unpublished and exhaustive investigation process. This book tells the truth about what really happened to cause the accident. The book is educational and very inspirational! 

Read more

Description


April 9, 2010 Approximate Local Time – Midnight in Afghanistan Twenty-five hundred feet over Taliban-held territory in southern Afghanistan, three U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft droned through the inky black sky. The mission of the forty-eight U.S. Army Special Forces, Third Battalion, Seventy-Fifth Rangers aboard the airplanes was to engage in direct action with the enemy. The Air Force crews' mission – insert the Army troops close to their objective, a landing zone (LZ) near the town of Qalat in eastern Afghanistan.

Major Randell Voas, a Minnesota native and twenty-year veteran commanding military helicopters, led the three-ship formation on the planned fourteen-minute trip. With a layer of high clouds obscuring the night sky, screens on his instrument panel burned green with aircraft performance and navigation information, the only visible illumination. In the cockpit, the navigation page revealed their progress – late. Anticipating the descent for landing, Voas adjusted his night vision goggles and keyed the microphone switch on his control column advising his formation of an updated time over target (TOT). The new TOT would have the three CV-22s landing on the LZ at forty minutes after midnight. Approximately twenty miles from the LZ, Voas reduced power, allowing the nose of the aircraft to fall toward the obscured horizon. He trimmed pressure on the control stick to neutral for the gradual letdown to a lower altitude. Level at six hundred feet above the ground and two minutes out, an A-10 Thunderbolt II orbiting above illuminated (sparkled) the LZ. The crew, expecting a single shaft of light to identify their objective, instead watched multiple rays of infrared energy streak toward the planned touchdown point. The copilot leaned forward in his seat questioning what he saw. With no apparent concern, Voas acknowledged and modified his crosscheck, focusing on the TOT and the approach to landing. At three miles and one minute from landing, the trio of aircraft descended to three hundred feet above the ground. The troops in the rear of the airplane acknowledged the "one-minute" advisory from the CV-22 tail scanner and took a knee facing the open ramp and door, preparing for a rapid egress once on the ground.

Descending into a valley and drifting away from their desired track, the crew noted an unexpected wind shift and corrected their heading to remain on course. At two and a half miles to landing, Voas slowed to approach speed, and tilted the nacelles on the ends of the CV-22's stubby wings toward the vertical, altering their configuration from airplane to helicopter mode. The flight engineer lowered the landing gear. Hydraulic fluid compressed to 5000 psi (pounds per square inch) hissed through stainless steel lines to release the up locks fixing the landing gear assemblies into the wheel wells. Giant pistons ported fluid that extended the landing gear into position with an audible clunk. Suddenly, at one hundred feet above ground, the airplane's nose unexpectedly pitched earthward in a rapid rate of descent. Unable to arrest the aircraft's vertical velocity or his speed over the ground, and with the plane headed for the center of a deep gully, Voas elected to abandon a vertical helicopter landing in favor of a seldom-practiced emergency maneuver. With his speed slightly exceeding ninety knots, he opted to land like any fixed-wing airplane, rolling the wheels onto the desert floor.

Nearing touchdown, and amid a cacophony of aural electronic altitude warnings, the tempo of cockpit conversation intensified. What caused the Osprey to suddenly fall out of the sky? Could Major Voas avert the pending disaster? The story of this accident would become a political lightning rod for over a decade. Read this exciting book to find out why.

Read more

About the author


Brigadier General (Retired) Don Harvel, United States Air Force

Don was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He left Albuquerque in 1972 to attend the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. After graduation, he was commissioned into the United States Air Force and assigned to pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. His first flying assignment after pilot training was flying C-130 aircraft at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. In April 1982, he was reassigned as an Instructor Pilot flying C-130's with the Aircrew Training and Test Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. In 1985, Don left active duty and joined the Texas Air National Guard as a C-130 pilot. He was also hired by a commercial airline and started a twenty-five year "dual career" as an Air National guard pilot and a commercial airline pilot.

His military assignments included Commander of the 181st Airlift Squadron, Commander of the 136th Operations Group, and Commander of the 136th Airlift Wing. He participated in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Don was promoted to Brigadier General in 2008 and was assigned to be the Deputy Commander of the Texas Air National Guard. During that time, he also served as the Director of the Commander's Development Course (Andrews Air Force Base, Washington D.C. and the Air National Guard Assistant to the Commander of Air Force Special Operations.

He retired from the military in September of 2010 with 34 years of military service. During his airline career (34 years), Don flew the Boeing 727, 737, 757, 767, and 777. He has logged over 25,000 hours as a military and commercial pilot. He retired from commercial flying in August of 2019.

Don and his family reside in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Read more


Book Reviews

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Brian
Core values This book is fine example of taking the time and doing the right thing first; integrity will always overcome in the end. Read more
Jo
written with integrity and truth Thank you General Harvel for not only leading the accident investigation with integrity, but also being compelled to write the truth about the accident in which my son was killed. Read more
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