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134 deaths in the dark Military knew night goggles weren't meant for helicopters: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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134 deaths in the dark Military knew night goggles weren't meant for helicopters: [EVENING Edition]
Edward Humes :The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 04 Dec 1988: a01.

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At least 134 servicemen have died and 62 military helicopters have crashed in the past 10 years while pilots wore light-amplifying night-vision goggles the Pentagon knew were unsafe, a six-month investigation by the Register has found. In crash after crash, highly qualified Army, Marine Corps and Air Force pilots wearing the goggles at night flew their helicopters blindly into mountains, wires, trees, oceans and one another, military records show. Most of the crashes occurred during difficult, ground-skimming flights, while pilots peered through outdated, jury-rigged goggles never intended or fully tested for flight. The goggles were designed and tested for ground troops and truck driving. Their designers and manufacturers never considered them flightworthy. The Pentagon has blamed all but two of the night-vision goggle crashes on pilot error -- a finding that has allowed flying with them to continue uninterrupted. A Pentagon spokesman said there are no common links to the crashes that would justify grounding the goggles. But several recent crashes and the goggles' inadequacies have led Rep. Frank McCloskey, D-Ind., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to request a congressional investigation of goggle safety next year. That request is pending. The Register examined more than 50 military crash reports spanning a decade, declassified at the newspaper's request and obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act. The newspaper also reviewed military manuals, training guides and internal safety publications and interviewed dozens of pilots and night-vision experts. This research showed that Pentagon officials were well aware of the dangers, yet chose to risk flying with infantry goggles because of the tactical advantages night flying offers. "I kept saying, use these for the mission they were designed for -- driving," said former Army engineer Edward Firth, who presided over development of the infantry night-vision goggles before retiring in 1978. "They just don't give you enough to fly at high speeds... . It was an Army decision to put them in helicopters. They are aware of the risks." Firth said the maximum safe speed limit for a person using the goggles is 35 mph, far less than typical helicopter speeds of 100 mph or more. Manufacturers have never considered the infantry models suitable for flight because pilots cannot see in the dark well enough to fly at typical helicopter speeds of 100 mph and above, according to company spokesmen at ITT Electro-Optical Products in Roanoke, Va., Varian Image Tube Division in Palo Alto, and other goggle makers. "ITT's position is that we don't endorse Generation II (infantry goggles) for flight applications," said Jim Eder, an ITT night-vision program manager. "If you have an alternative, I wouldn't want anyone to use Generation II." In fact, at least two multimillion-dollar lawsuits filed by crash victims or their next-of-kin have been dismissed because manufacturers warned the military that the goggles were not flightworthy, court records show. The devices were not defective, the courts ruled, they were simply being misused. In dismissing a case this year against ITT Electro Optics Division -- filed by the families of victims in the 1984 Marine crash in Korea -- a New York federal judge wrote that the only legitimate defendant in a goggle-related crash would be the US government, for knowingly ordering men to fly with the devices. However, such a case against the government can never be filed, US District Court Judge Peter K. Leisure wrote, because the military is immune from lawsuits by servicemen. Military officials tacitly acknowledge safety problems by saying accidents should decrease during the next three years, when the old infantry goggles gradually are replaced by improved, state-of-the-art systems designed specifically for pilots.

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134 deaths in the dark Military knew night goggles weren't meant for helicopters: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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Both types of goggles electronically amplify starlight and moonlight, displaying green-colored images of night landscapes on two tiny video screens embedded in a binocular-like goggle. The new pilot goggles are two to four times more powerful than the old devices. They offer clearer vision, and, unlike the infantry goggles, are lightweight and fit flight helmets. But they are twice as costly and will remain in short supply for at least three years, according to Pentagon procurement schedules, which are four years behind because of technical and budget problems. In the meantime, Army and Marine spokesmen said the ability to fly at night -even with flawed goggles -- is crucial to national security, and cannot wait for better technology. "We believe we have to keep doing this so we can be ready when the time comes," said Lt. Gen. Charles H. Pitman, deputy chief of staff for Marine Corps aviation, who was involved with goggle flying from its inception. Pitman said the military does all it can to make flying with the infantry goggles as safe as possible. Pilots are trained to compensate for the inadequacies of the goggles -- such as poor depth perception and no peripheral vision. Crashes have happened when aircrews failed to fly within the goggles' limitations, Pitman said. "If they had followed procedures in each of these accidents we've had ... and used common sense, the accidents wouldn't have occurred." But night-vision experts and other pilots question the findings of pilot error, and say lives are endangered every day the military flies with goggles originally designed for the infantry. "Goggle flying was one hairy experience after another," said Clyde Emery, a retired pilot who taught instructors at the Army's flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., and who was one of the Army's most experienced goggle pilots before he quit in 1981. "It's one of the reasons I retired. We were killing people ... and I wanted to live another 20 or 30 years." Emery said pilots routinely "cheated" while flying on goggle missions by taking them off and flying without them -- without telling superiors. "We did it to survive," he said. Pilots need light-amplifying goggles for night flying because almost all of the nation's military aircraft -- jets and helicopters alike -- were designed for combat in daylight. The goggles were seen as an inexpensive, easy way to convert even the oldest helicopters in the fleet to night-time troop carriers, tankkillers and cargo haulers, said Lt. Col. Robert Verona, product manager at the Army's Night Vision and Electro-Optics Laboratory at Fort Belvoir, Va. But the goggles now being used by pilots were developed in the mid-1970s for infantry soldiers, truck drivers and tank crews. They never fully were tested for flightworthiness or air safety, and "were not developed to be compatible with aviation usage," according to an Oct. 17, 1983, crash investigation report by the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. In the past 10 years, the Army has had 41 major crashes during goggle flights, the Marine Corps has had eight and the Air Force has had three. Six of the most recent occurred during the use of goggles designed specifically for pilots; the rest involved infantry goggles. Some of the crashes involved more than one helicopter. Of all the services, only the Navy refuses to fly helicopters with the infantry goggles. The Navy never has approved their use in aircraft, Pitman said. Hazards posed by night-vision goggles are many and well-known to the Pentagon, according to some of the military's own manuals and crash-investigation reports. "For a number of years the PVS-5s (infantry goggles) have met with mixed reviews and marginal success in the field," wrote Army night-vision expert Tim Neal in a May 1983 article in the US Army Aviation Digest. "...The facts are that they are heavy, ill-fitting, poor performing and give some of us claustrophobia. PVS-5 limitations have been documented precisely." Other drawbacks include: Loss of peripheral vision. Impaired depth perception. Blurred eyesight. Disorientation. Visual illusions. An inability to read vital instruments and gauges. A tendency for the goggles to be blinded in cloudy weather. The goggles have other problems as well: Helicopters had to be flown so slowly on some goggle missions that they began to stall or rock up and down -- a constant danger when the ground is less than 25 feet below. Bright lights -- such as flares or explosions typical in battle -- cause the goggles to shut down, much like the pupil of the human eye closes. While that problem lasts only a second or two after the light dims, it still can be deadly. A helicopter moving at 120 mph travels more than 200 feet in a second and a half.

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134 deaths in the dark Military knew night goggles weren't meant for helicopters: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

8/22/12 11:45 PM

Until the cause was pinpointed in 1983, the simple act of switching on radio equipment inside a helicopter caused goggles to shut down for several seconds. That problem has since been fixed, officials said. Because they cover the sides of the face, the goggles eliminate peripheral vision. "Scotch-tape the tube from an empty toilet-paper roll on each eye, and you'll know what flying with goggles is like," said George Small, an instructor pilot for the Army at Fort Campbell, Ky., who retired last month after 20 years of flying in the military. The grainy images created by the goggles often fail to show clouds, dust or blowing sand until a helicopter is completely engulfed in weather that blocks out moonlight and starlight, rendering the goggles useless. That failure was reported in at least 20 of the fatal accidents in which goggles were used, records show. Because the infantry goggles were not designed to be compatible with flight helmets, they are clumsy, heavy and tiring for fliers to use. They must be attached to the pilot with cumbersome, makeshift straps and rubber tubes -- what the commander at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, Maj. D.E.P. Miller, calls "a bandaid fix that isn't worth a damn." Verona and safety officials in both the Army and Marine Corps said they are working hard to decrease the dangers of goggle flying. The Marines recently opened a new safety laboratory in Yuma, Ariz., for simulating hazards while training pilots to fly with night-vision goggles, and the Army is expected to follow suit. "We know these goggles are not the best, but if you give me a choice between flying in the dark with them or without them, I'll scream, `Give me those goggles'," said Capt. Russell James, an Army spokesman and helicopter pilot. "To survive in combat, we've got to fly low at night. That's why we use them." "It's a dangerous mission, but we have to do it," Verona said. "There will be accidents." Marine helicopter pilots at Tustin Marine Corps Air Station and elsewhere say the infantry goggles are far better than none at all. "When I go out flying at night, I want to wear goggles," said Maj. Pete Todsen, a CH-53D Sea Stallion pilot at Tustin. "They are a good friend." A push to increase goggle flying in the last five years coincides with skyrocketing numbers of crashes and deaths. While military-aviation safety has improved overall, the incidence of crashes in which pilots wore night-vision goggles has shot up, from 7 percent of all fatal Army helicopter crashes in 1981 to more than 25 percent in 1987, records show. Through May of this year, five of 12 fatal Army helicopter crashes occurred while night-vision goggles were in use -- more than 41 percent of all Army helicopter crashes. However, Army officials have produced alternative statistics examining crashes by fiscal year that suggest night-vision crashes have decreased: from 12 in fiscal year 1987 to six in fiscal year 1988. The goggle crashes are strikingly similar to one another, an analysis of 10 years' worth of Army, Air Force and Marine crash-investigation reports shows. Mechanically-sound helicopters careened into obstructions as pilots attempted to navigate with the miniature, light-amplifying video screens embedded in their goggles. Thirty-three of the crashes occurred when moonlight and starlight levels dipped below the point where the goggles could function adequately -- something that happens quickly and without warning, literally leaving pilots in the dark, crash reports show. "It's like putting on a pair of dark glasses at twilight, then trying to see," Small said. "When the light levels are low, which they frequently are, it's a joke. They are not safe." "They (pilots) should be driving tanks with these things, not flying helicopters ... that's why they're crashing," said former Marine Capt. Art Conroy, who retired as a pilot at Tustin in 1986, in part, he said, because of fears over flying with goggles. He is now a government contractor in Washington, DC. Goggle-related crashes include three fatal accidents in 1987 involving Orange County-based Marine Corps helicopters. Two of the crashes occurred when helicopters on "routine training missions" slammed into cloud-shrouded hillsides that pilots could not see, according to Judge Advocate General investigation reports by the Marine Corps. The third helicopter hit the side of an aircraft carrier. Eight Marines were killed in those accidents and another 24 servicemen were injured. In a typical goggle disaster, First Lt. Chris Toburen, 27, of Laguna Hills flew his Tustin-based helicopter into a mountain at Camp Pendleton in September 1987. He and the three other Marines on board were killed. Investigators found that an unexpected cloud layer had caused Toburen's goggles to shut down -- one moment he could see the terrain below him clearly; 10 seconds later, he could not. Investigators also concluded that Toburen and his crew were not properly familiarized with their goggles before the mission, and that "there is an inability to see clouds while wearing NVGs (night-vision goggles)."
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134 deaths in the dark Military knew night goggles weren't meant for helicopters: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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Nevertheless, pilot error -- the fact that Toburen flew into clouds he could not see -- was deemed the primary cause of the crash. The first item on a list of safety recommendations arising from the crash: "No further restrictions to training or operations are warranted regarding night vision goggle ... missions." The worst crash involving goggles occurred in Korea in 1984, when a Tustin-based Marine helicopter on maneuvers flew into a mountain its pilot never saw, the Marine report on that crash says. Twenty-nine servicemen died. Night-vision goggles also were in use when the abortive 1980 Iran hostage-rescue mission ended in a fiery collision at the "Desert One" rendezvous point, where eight servicemen died when a Navy helicopter struck a transport plane. And most recently, goggles intended for the infantry were being worn during an October midair collision between a Camp Pendleton-based helicopter and another Marine helicopter on maneuvers in Arizona. Despite a nearly full moon and apparently ideal conditions for flying with goggles, the crews aboard the helicopters never saw one another, Pitman said, and all 10 servicemen on board were killed. That crash still is under investigation by the military. It was the 10th fatal collision between aircraft during night-vision flights, crash-investigation reports show. Mechanical failures were not to blame in these or the other crashes. The pilots simply did not or could not see what killed them, records show. "...Night-vision goggles were not developed to be compatible with aviation usage, restricting vision to a narrow field of view," one military-safety panel reported after a non-fatal 1983 Army helicopter crash in which a pilot flew into power lines he could not see. In one of only two occasions in 10 years in which the military has blamed goggles for an accident, the panel from the Army Safety Center concluded the crash on July 18, 1983, "impossible" to avoid because of the goggles' limitations. In virtually all other crashes since then -- even those with identical equipment under similar circumstances -- military crash investigators and boards of review have blamed pilot error, not goggle problems, records show. The error, according to the reports, was that pilots and crew failed to fly within the limitations of the goggles. But an Army flight-manual excerpt attached to a July 1983 Army Safety Center crash report says the infantry goggles "were adopted as an interim pilot's night vision system without formal development testing/operational testing for aviation use and with full knowledge that it did not fully meet aviation-user requirements." Pitman confirmed that such flight testing was skipped, and that the military has learned the good and bad points of night-vision goggles through using them in the field. It took five years, 10 crashes and 21 deaths for the Army to learn in 1983 to modify the infantry goggles so pilots could read their instrument panels; the Marines waited until after the crash that killed 29 to modify theirs, according to Bob McLean, the Army human-factors expert who developed the modified goggles. This modification consists of cutting away portions of the goggles' face mask with shears, rewiring them, and strapping them to flight helmets with rubber tubes, straps and velcro. Had flight testing been done, Pitman said, such modifications would have been made sooner. Normally, the Marine Corps needs Navy approval to use an aviation system, because the Navy owns all the Marines' aircraft and designates Marine pilots as naval aviators. The Marines were able to get around that requirement in the case of goggles, Pitman said, "because they are not part of the aircraft -- the pilot wears them." Without Navy authorization for the goggles, they had to be bought with "green dollars" -- money allocated to the green-uniformed ground forces of the Marines -- rather than "blue dollar" Navy money, Pitman said. Then the aviation branch of the Marines borrowed the goggles from the infantry, he said. In the process, flight-testing normally required by the Navy was skipped, as it had been skipped earlier by the Army, records show. Use of the infantry goggles by pilots was supposed to be a short-term measure until goggles designed specifically for fliers could be developed and fielded -originally set for 1983. But after 10 years, the 15,000 infantry goggles now in flight use still are the mainstay for night flying in the military, officials said. Even the improved pilot goggles are a compromise system, Verona said, acknowledging that anything that restricts a pilot's vision and depth perception is potentially dangerous. Pitman said the military hoped someday to have foward-looking infrared sensors installed on all helicopters so the goggles could be dispensed with. "We don't have the systems that are necessary," Small said. "They're trying to do this on the cheap."
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134 deaths in the dark Military knew night goggles weren't meant for helicopters: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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ILLUSTRATIONS showing normal daytime vision and night vision using goggles. (Goertzen) CHART: Army helicopter crashes The Army - the main user of night-vision goggles - has had an increasing proportion of its crashes occur while goggles are in use. Crashes listed resulted in deaths or damage over $500,000. (For years 1980-1988, chart shows number of crashes, number of deaths, number of NVG crashes, number of NVG deaths and NVG percentage of deaths.) 1988, The Orange County Register Illustration COLOR PHOTO:ILLUSTRATION:BLACK & WHITE PHOTO:CHART; Caption: Under a full moon at the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station, 1st Lt. Chuck Phillips wears PVS-5 night-vision goggles used by pilots. (Alkofer)(COLOR); Caption: New goggles, developed by the Army specifically for use by pilots, are fully flight tested. (Navy)(B&W); Caption: Maj. Pete Todsen - a CH-53D Sea Stallion pilot at Tustin Marine Corps Air Station, who is among fliers who say the infantry goggles are far better than none at all. (B&W); Credit: Department of the Navy:Bill Alkofer:Jeff Goertzen Copyright Orange County Register Dec 4, 1988

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DEATH IN THE DARK Night-vision goggles blind pilots to dangers in the skies: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

8/22/12 11:42 PM

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DEATH IN THE DARK Night-vision goggles blind pilots to dangers in the skies: [EVENING Edition]
Edward Humes :The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 04 Dec 1988: k01.

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Blindness took them without warning. One moment, moonlit hilltops rolled by 200 feet below. The next, clouds enveloped their military helicopter in a dark fist, blotting out moon, stars, horizon, sight. Cockpit windows became black mirrors, revealing nothing. Pilot and crew knew they had moments to react, to turn or climb from their blind path. Straining to see, they peered through the artificial eyes of nightvision goggles, devices that amplify evening's meager light hundreds of times. Under ideal conditions, such goggles make moonlight gleam with dazzling brightness, painting a glowing green picture of the night-dark landscape below. But conditions were far from ideal this night -- the clouds were thick, the moon obscured. And the men learned that the mechanical eyes they relied on were not so reliable after all. The mountain was visible only a few seconds before the crash, a shadowy mass, black as a coffin lid, rising in front of them. Their helicopter was swatted to earth with crushing force as the pilot tried, too late, to veer away. And then, finally, there was light -- the fiery brightness of burning wreckage that drew other helicopters to the scene like moths to a candle. The date was March 24, 1984. A Marine Corps helicopter from Tustin on maneuvers in South Korea struck a cloud-shrouded mountain and burst into flames. Twenty-nine men died; none survived. It happened again Sept. 3, 1987: another mountain, another group of Marines dead, this time four at Camp Pendleton. And again Feb. 12, 1987: three Marines killed in Trabuco Canyon in another fiery meeting of mountain and helicopter. A similar sequence of events led to crashes in May 1988, November 1986, December 1984, April 1978, and 28 other times in the past decade. All of them involved Army, Air Force or Marine helicopters that simply ran into the ground. On 10 other occasions, helicopters ran into other aircraft. Eight times, the unseen obstacles were power cables. And there were dozens of other minor accidents in which death and destruction barely were averted. All of these accidents had a common theme: They occurred while pilots wore night-vision goggles. In all but six out of 52 cases, the goggles in use were outdated, jury-rigged devices designed for ground troops and truck drivers, not pilots. The Pentagon has been aware the goggles are inadequate for flying for at least 10 years, when crashes began occurring during routine flights, according to 50 military crash-investigation reports and other documents obtained by the Register through the federal Freedom of Information Act. An analysis of a July 1983 crash by the Army Safety Center in Fort Rucker, Ala., baldly states that the ground-troop goggles "are not compatible with aviation," and the retired Army scientist who presided over their development, Edward Firth, said they were designed for driving vehicles no faster than 35 mph. Even before the crashes, the goggles' manufacturers and the Army's own night-vision experts warned that the infantry goggles were inadequate for flight.

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DEATH IN THE DARK Night-vision goggles blind pilots to dangers in the skies: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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The long string of night-vision accidents has led to safety improvements in procedures, training and helicopter lighting. But the military does not believe flying with goggles should be curtailed or stopped, said Lt. Col. John Reitz, the Army's Pentagon spokesmen for night-vision goggles. "In the last two years, no accidents (that occurred during goggle flights) were directly attributable to night-vision goggles," he said. "There were no common links." Military officials blame most of the crashes on pilot error, contending that pilots fail to fly within the goggles' limitations. This finding allows flying with the infantry goggles to continue while the military gradually converts to a newer, safer type of goggle designed specifically for pilots. These pilot goggles remain in short supply. More than 15,000 pairs of the infantry goggles are now being used at military bases nationwide. Helicopter pilots at the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station fly with them nightly. Pilots wear them occasionally at the Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center, officials said. The military uses the goggles because most of its helicopters were designed 10, 20 or even 30 years ago, built primarily for daytime combat, without sophisticated radar or guidance systems. Tremendous casualties in Vietnam and deadly new anti-aircraft weapons developed since then have forced pilots to fly these helicopters at night on ground-hugging, radar-evading missions for which they never were built. The goggles represent a kind of ad-libbed pilot's aide, a quick way to increase helicopters' nighttime capabilities simply by strapping something on a pilot, said George Small, an Army night-vision goggle instructor who retired last month at Fort Campbell, Ky. But there are problems, he said. "When you're over a desert, where there's little contrast, or when the light levels are low, you can forget it," he said. "They are not safe." "When you're wearing those goggles, you lose your peripheral vision, you lose your balance, you lose your depth perception," said former Marine Capt. Art Conroy, who flew Sea Stallion helicopters at Tustin until his retirement in 1986. "When there's an overcast, forget it. You can't see. And then when something happens, they call it pilot error. "I think there should be some questions about that." The first fatal night-vision goggle crashes on record -- discounting one attributable to helicopter breakdown -- were in April and July 1978. Two Huey training helicopters were destroyed and six Army fliers killed while training with the goggles at Fort Rucker, Ala., where all Army pilots earn their wings. In both cases, sudden fog obscured moonlight, reducing the goggle image to the equivalent of a television without an antenna -- all static and sparks. This was to become the hallmark of night-vision crashes -- unwitting entry into bad weather. It's a deadly trap the goggles repeatedly bait for pilots because the devices are incapable of seeing clouds or fog, according to several Army and Marine reports on crashes. At the same time, the tight face masks of the infantry goggles barred pilots from seeing their instruments, leaving them unable to tell whether they were descending, turning or flying level. Deprived of sight, the helicopter pilots in both 1978 crashes became disoriented and ran into the ground. Pilot error was blamed in both cases, although one crash-investigation report also conceded that "environmental factors" played a role. After 10 crashes and 21 deaths, Army night-vision experts in 1983 learned they could improve safety by cutting away the face-mask portion of the goggles, allowing pilots to peer underneath at instruments during crucial moments. The Army and the Air Force then banned use of the full face-mask goggles that same year. But the Marine Corps, which had been pursuing a separate night-vision program, failed to adopt this change -- until after the March 1984 crash and 29 deaths in Korea, according to Conroy and Bob McLean, an Army human factors expert at the Abderdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The use of the full face-mask goggles was not addressed in the official Marine investigation report on the crash. This report, a Navy Judge Advocate General's investigation, written by Marine Maj. Michael Powers, then of the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station, only noted that clouds obscured moonlight so much that the goggles could not function properly. The squadron commander on the Korea maneuvers, Lt. Col. James Schaefer, also formerly of the Tustin base and an early advocate of goggle flying, was chastised in the report for failing to abort the mission because of cloudy weather. Four years earlier, Schaefer, then a major, was the pilot whose helicopter collided with a plane during the ill-fated Iran-hostage rescue mission -- a mission conducted with the infantry goggles. Former Marine pilot Conroy was slated to be co-pilot on the helicopter that crashed in Korea but was pulled off flight duty at the last minute in favor of a senior officer who needed the additional flight time, Conroy said.

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DEATH IN THE DARK Night-vision goggles blind pilots to dangers in the skies: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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"It could easily have been me dead and burned on that hill. ... We were not prepared to be flying with goggles on a mission like that," he said. "It was absolutely criminal." Cutting away the face masks of the goggles did not eliminate the other problems with the ground-troop goggles. Their poor performance in low light continued to lead to crashes. In at least 20 crashes, including two of last year's crashes in Orange County, goggles were blinded by cloudy weather, according to 10 years of reports on night-vision goggle crashes. As helicopters fly into the fringes of clouds, the goggles try to compensate by increasing the brightness of their video images. Pilots cannot tell they're in trouble until the clouds completely engulf them, cutting off all light, according to Lt. Col. Robert Verona, night-vision goggle product manager at the Army's Center for Night Vision and Electro-Optics at Fort Belvoir, Va. "It can be insidious," he said. "It can suck you right in." Theoretically, pilots are expected to notice they are flying into clouds by seeing halos around objects, indicating haze, or by watching for shadows on the ground that could be cast by clouds, military documents and safety experts say. The Orange County Marine crashes were blamed on pilot error because investigators determined that pilots failed to watch for these danger signs. But Conroy and former Army instructor pilot Clyde Emery, who taught night-vision flying from 1978 to 1981, said that was laughable. "There's no way you're going to know until it's too late," Conroy said. "They weren't designed for that." "The best thing you can do when you're in clouds is slap them (the goggles) off," Emery said. "And if you're good at unusual-attitude recovery, you'll survive. Maybe." An Army report on a Dec. 19, 1985, crash in Germany describes trying to land a helicopter with night-vision goggles on a cloudy night as flying "into a black hole." Ten days earlier, on Dec. 9, 1985, a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, searching for another chopper downed in South Korea, struck high-voltage power lines 225 feet off the ground. It had been flying at a cautious 23 mph. The rotors were ripped off the helicopter, which plunged straight down, impaling itself on a dead tree, killing a Korean door gunner and critically injuring the three US fliers on board. The moon was only a sliver that night -- 6 to 7 percent of a full moon, too little for the goggles to function properly. At least a fifth-full moon is required, although the Army lets its pilots fly with special infrared search lights when the moon is smaller, Verona said. The pilot, Warrant Officer Thomas Getsy, said the wires were invisible until the crash: "I saw this big white strand come across the cockpit. ... Then the rotors came off all at one time." The verdict of investigators: The crash was caused by Getsy's error. He should have avoided the wires. But in a virtually identical accident July 18, 1983, in Germany, investigators drew a seemingly contradictory conclusion -- one of two times an accident has been blamed on the goggles' inadequacies. An Army OH-58 Kiowa on a night-vision goggle training flight also struck power lines, this time under even better conditions -- a brightly moonlit night and traveling at about 30 mph. The helicopter suffered major damage but stayed aloft until severe vibrations forced the instructor pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Richard Pratt, to make an emergency landing. Before touching down, he lost power and hit the ground so hard the chopper's tail was torn off. The two men on board suffered minor injuries. "I was looking out and could not see the wires," Pratt reported. In blaming the crash on environmental and equipment factors, meaning the goggles, investigators made this finding: "Night-vision goggles were not developed to be compatible with aviation usage, restricting vision to a narrow field of view and making it impossible for Pratt to detect wires." Excerpts from a 1983 Army training manual attached to the crash investigation say, "Normally, wires are impossible to see at night with or without the night-vision goggles." The difference is: When flying at night without goggles, pilots are required to stay high enough to avoid wires. With goggles, they are required to fly low, "nap-of-the-earth" missions designed to avoid radar. To improve safety, they fly the routes in daylight, jotting down wire locations, mountains and other hazards on maps. Then they use their notes as references while flying at low altitudes on night-vision goggle flights. Pilots normally will not have the opportunity to fly routes in advance in combat.

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DEATH IN THE DARK Night-vision goggles blind pilots to dangers in the skies: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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Pilot error also was blamed for a midair collision in Kentucky that killed 17 Army fliers in March. With peripheral vision blocked by the goggles, there was little chance to see the collision in the making until the last moment, investigators said, just as Pratt failed to see the wires that downed his chopper. Yet this time, the dead flight crews were blamed. Night-vision goggles give pilots such poor vision that they would be medically disqualified from flying if their natural eyesight was that bad, according to the sworn statement of an Army instructor pilot consulted during the investigation of the Kentucky crash. The pilot, David Heaton, begged his superiors to accelerate delivery of goggles designed specifically for flying as a means of reducing accidents, according to his statement, attached to the crash-investigation report. Pilot error was cited in another accident, when the goggles made starlight reflected in water appear to be stars in the sky, according to an Army Safety Center report on the crash. Two fliers were severely injured in 1985 during a flight in Salt Lake City when this common goggle illusion sent them careening into Great Salt Lake. The pilot thought he was flying on a level course. When six Army fliers hit an island and died while flying over Lake Michigan near Detroit in 1983, a surviving helicopter crew reported that the goggles made a small island on the lake look like fog. The other helicopter had barely pulled up in time when the lead chopper crashed. The verdict: pilot error. "I don't believe in the term pilot error in these cases," said Matthew Ellis, a former Army officer, now a private helicopter safety consultant in Tennessee. "These pilots and field commanders are doing a tremendous job overcoming the limitations of the goggles. Sometimes you go out and everything is fine. But the problem is the next time you fly, those limitations will come up and bite you on the ass. "And you may not have done anything different." He said the finding of pilot error in so many goggle crashes glosses over the severe hazards the goggles pose for servicemen. Even so, many pilots said they would rather have the infantry goggles than none at all. Old hands remember night flying in pre-goggle days in Vietnam, where there were two choices, each equally terrifying: You flew high and became an easy target for enemy radar, or you lit up the sky with flares and spotlights and became an easy target for ground troops. Compared to that, the infantry goggles are a godsend, they say. "I don't think there's a guy who flew in Vietnam who wouldn't have flown with night-vision goggles if he could have," said Lt. Col. Michael D. Ryan, commander of the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One at Yuma, which teaches other Marine units how to best use night-vision goggles. "You could have sold them for all the money those guys had." "We use them because we can see," said Capt. Mike Saunders, a AH-1 Cobra pilot at Camp Pendleton. "Before ... we had dark." But Emery said many military pilots love the goggles only because they represent such a marked improvement over flying in the dark -- overlooking the fact that night flying without goggles is often safer because the missions are slower and more cautious. With goggles, pilots are often required to fly the same high-speed, low-altitude missions flown in daylight, he said. Efforts are under way to improve safety, officials said. The Army has changed flight procedures and helicopter lighting systems in response to recent accidents. The Marine Corps forbids passengers on flights using the infantry goggles, and allows passengers with the new pilot goggles only on nights when lighting is good. In January, the Marine Corps opened a special training lab at Yuma, Ariz., to teach night-vision safety by simulating hazards. Lt. Rick Mason, the Navy physiologist assigned to the lab, said it was first proposed after the Korea crash but has just received funding. Army and Marine officials say they will replace most of the infantry goggles with new ones designed for pilots by 1991 or 1992. They have been available since 1982 and originally scheduled for delivery in 1984. A few thousand have been distributed, but infantry goggles still are used in the vast majority of night flights and are the primary kind used at Tustin and El Toro. The new pilot goggles have received rave reviews from pilots, and safety experts say they will reduce accidents. Although they operate better in dim light and do not blur vision as badly as the infantry goggles, they still share all the other shortcomings, and they are even more vulnerable to cloudy weather. More exotic goggles are being designed that will be mounted inside flight helmet visors, adding infrared sensors and other navigational aides, but they are years off and primarily intended for jet pilots. In the meantime, while budget priorities lie with more sophisticated weapons systems, the helicopter pilot will have to struggle with goggles built for truck drivers. "Give him a set of goggles that is not the state of the art ... and you do not have to be a mental giant to realize that something is going to happen," Heaton wrote in his statement attached to reports on the March midair collision. "Until we do this (replacement), accidents like this will continue to happen." ILLUSTRATION/CHART:

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DEATH IN THE DARK Night-vision goggles blind pilots to dangers in the skies: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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Night-vision helicopter crash trends, 1978-88 - The 52 military air crashes that occurred during night-vision goggle flights have destroyed 62 helicopters. This does not include crashes during goggle flights clearly attributable to helicopter breakdowns. Types of crashes: Hit ground, water or trees (35); Hit power cables (7); Aircraft collisions (10). Weather at crash site: Skies clear, but moonlight/starlight too dim for goggles to function (13); Vision obscured by clouds, fog, smoke, dust or blinding light (20); Light sufficient, weather clear for safe goggle flight (19). Crash causes: Night-vision goggles blamed (2); Pilot/crew error blamed (50). Type of goggles: AN/PVS-5 (outdated infantry) goggles used (46); AN/PVS-6 (state-of-the-art pilot) goggles used (6). (Carbo) CHART: Night-vision goggle crashes, 1978-88 - Military air crashes involving light-amplifying night-vision goggles date back 10 years, and include all branches of the military except the Navy, which until recently did not use night-vision goggles. (chart shows number of accidents, number of aircraft destroyed, number of deaths, injuries and amount of damages for each branch of the service). Investigation: 134 deaths found In the past 10 years, at least 62 military helicopters have been destroyed and 134 servicemen killed in crashes in which pilots wore night-vision goggles, a Register investigation has found. An additional 103 servicemen have been paralyzed, burned, brain-damaged or suffered other serious injuries in goggle-related crashes. More than $180 million in damage occurred. To analyze these crashes, the Register obtained more than 50 declassified crash-investigation reports spanning 10 years, along with Army training manuals, internal safety newsletters and other documents pertaining to night-vision flying. These records show: For 10 years, the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force have flown with goggles designed for ground troops and truck drivers, not pilots. Manufacturers do not consider the infantry goggles safe for flight. The goggles amplify moonlight and starlight, but limit peripheral vision, perform poorly in dim light, inhibit depth perception, and are incompatible with interior and exterior aircraft lighting. They have a tendency to be blinded in cloudy weather, while simultaneously preventing pilots from noticing they are flying into clouds. Improved goggles designed specifically for pilots are to replace the infantry goggles by 1992, but even these devices suffer from many of the same weaknesses, and have been linked to six of the most recent crashes. Despite these problems, military officials have blamed all but two of the crashes on pilot error. Goggle flying continues nightly nationwide. Illustration COLOR PHOTO:BLACK & WHITE PHOTO:CHART:ILLUSTRATION; Caption: A Tustin Marine helicopter pilot uses straps, Velcro and rubber tubes to wear night-vision goggles designed for ground troops. (Alkofer)(COLOR); Caption: Capt. Mike Saunders - `We use then because we can see' (B&W); Caption: SEE END OF TEXT FOR CHART & ILLUSTRATION INFORMATION.; Credit: Paul Carbo:The Register:Bill Alkofer Copyright Orange County Register Dec 4, 1988

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Pilot: Tustin Marine blamed for crash that killed him, 3 others: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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Pilot: Tustin Marine blamed for crash that killed him, 3 others: [EVENING Edition]
Edward Humes:The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 04 Dec 1988: K02.

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At 10:20 p.m. on Sept. 3, 1987, 1st Lt. Christopher Toburen became the first pilot at the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station to fly with a new kind of improved night-vision goggles. Thirty minutes later, while his wife waited at home with a pile of anniversary presents, he and his three-member crew became the first Marines to die with them. His CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter slammed into a cloud-shrouded mountain at Camp Pendleton during a ground-skimming practice mission, killing all four Marines instantly. The Marine Corps later blamed the crash on pilot error. But Marine regulations say Toburen should have received a simple familiarization flight with an instructor pilot before he was sent on any missions with the new goggles. Toburen's squadron, rushing to prepare for an overseas deployment the following January, was unaware of that requirement, according to a Marine Corps investigation report on the accident. Instead, six hours before his flight, he received a 50-minute briefing and a 17-page handout on the new goggles, the report says. It warned, among other things, that in cloudy weather the new goggles were potentially more dangerous than the old goggles to which he was accustomed. Toburen's first flight with the new goggles was the night he crashed. The crash investigation report's author, Maj. C.J. Rastetter, ruled that the lack of a familiarization ride was not a factor in the accident. He concluded the crewmembers mistakenly flew their helicopter into clouds and a mountain because they were overconfident in the increased capabilities of their new goggles. "It's almost like they took them out and shot them," said his father, Nelson Toburen, a judge in Pittsburg, Kan. "You don't go out and fly a mission like that with equipment you've never used. They didn't have a chance." "If there's one thing you could never accuse Chris of, it's overconfidence," said his widow, Judy Toburen, 29. "Look at his fitness reports -- he was one of their top pilots. If he was criticized for anything, it was for being too conservative. "I just don't see how you can be overconfident with something you've never used before. Something happened that night. Something went wrong." The crash was one of three fatal night-vision crashes last year involving Orange County Marines. Killed with Toburen were his co-pilot, 1st Lt. Scott Hiester, 27; Lance Cpl. Todd Kershner, 20, the crew chief; and 1st Lt. Christopher Tanner, 27, safety observer. On the night of the crash, Mrs. Toburen was waiting for her husband at their Laguna Hills home, where they were to celebrate the fourth anniversary of their wedding engagement. She also had received good news from her doctor -- the cancer she had been battling for more than a year appeared to be in remission. "I was never able to tell him," she said. "And I was the one trying to prepare him to live on without me. It never entered my mind that I'd be without him." The new goggles Toburen used that night, designed specifically for flying, were far more powerful than the outdated goggles he was used to -- devices intended for foot soldiers and truck drivers, not fliers. Toburen and all other helicopter pilots in the Army, Marines and Air Force were trained on the old infantry goggles and were eagerly awaiting the new devices. The new pilot goggles were supposed to be safer -- but they also posed new potential hazards.

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Both types amplify moonlight and starlight thousands of times, giving pilots an enhanced video view of dark terrain. Neither type can sense clouds, so pilots wearing goggles are prone to fly into them. The clouds then obstruct moonlight and starlight, blinding the goggles, "an extreme emergency," according to Rastetter's report. The more powerful new goggles are even more dangerous in this regard, because they allow pilots to fly farther and deeper into cloud cover. With Toburen's old infantry goggles, vision deteriorated quickly in clouds -- a signal to climb or turn to clearer skies. But the new goggles, up to four times more sensitive, adjust to dimming light by electronically brightening their video images. Pilots can be drawn much farther into clouds, until all moonlight and starlight are cut off, according to military night-vision experts. Toburen flew for 10 seconds into clouds before the goggles were blinded, preventing him from seeing the mountain that killed him, the report says. A companion helicopter, flying behind Toburen's, also was blinded by the clouds and barely pulled up and turned in time. Conditions were so poor that even with the wreckage of Toburen's chopper burning intensely, rescue helicopters took hours to find it, the report says. In addition to his finding of overconfidence, Rastetter's report suggested Toburen was reluctant to turn back in bad weather for fear of "appearing less than capable." Rastetter also blamed him for failing to recognize he was in clouds soon enough to avoid the mountain. Rastetter also pinned partial blame on the commander of the mission, Capt. Clifford Muzzio, pilot of the companion helicopter. He said Muzzio incorrectly put Toburen in the lead helicopter, misjudged the bad weather, and incorrectly instructed Toburen during a preflight briefing to climb straight ahead should they hit clouds, rather than telling him to climb and turn, the standard maneuver. The report's first recommendation was that no further restriction be placed on goggle flying. Other recommendations included a suggestion that pilot manuals be changed to provide better instructions on what to do when clouds are encountered during goggle flights. The finding of pilot error is nothing new for the military -- 50 out of 52 similiar crashes have been blamed on pilots, not goggles, in the past decade. But Toburen's father and wife question the investigator's findings that Toburen was overconfident or reckless. They describe him as a perfectionist, dedicated to flying and to the Marine Corps, and they are concerned that other fliers could suffer a similar fate while flying with the goggles. At 27, Toburen was one of the top young helicopter pilots at Tustin -- cautious, capable, level-headed, according to his performance reviews. A profile of him written by Rastetter seems to contradict his own finding of overconfidence. The investigator described Toburen as "a natural, dynamic leader ... (who) could be given any mission with confidence" and whose "approach to flying was by the book." One instructor's review attached to the report said Toburen was aware of pressures that could lead a pilot to make mistakes, but that "Chris is a strong officer and pilot and I am confident in his judgment." Toburen was so highly thought of that he had been nominated aide-de-camp to the commanding general. But he turned down the job because it would interfere with his flying, his father said. "These pilots should never have been sent on this mission without thorough familiarization with the new goggles under less demanding conditions," Nelson Toburen wrote in a letter to his daughter-in-law Judy. "Prudent people know that the first time you use something you do not test it to its limits. "To say the crew was overconfident in the improved gain of the new goggles is equivalent to saying that they had not been properly trained or given proper opportunity to know better." The crash report says Toburen had been sufficiently warned about the dangers posed by clouds, despite the failure to make the familiarity flight. And Maj. Gen. D.E.P. Miller, commander of the aircraft wing at Tustin and El Toro, said the checkout ride probably would have made no difference. "The problem was, someone up in Case Springs (the Camp Pendleton flight area) said the weather up there was great," Miller said. "It didn't make any difference what kind of goggle they used once they were in there." But Capt. Russell James, a spokesman for the Army and an experienced goggle pilot, said such checkout flights are considered essential in his branch of the military and overlooking them is "inexcusable." "That never should have happened," he said. "The system is designed to prevent that." Squadrons at Tustin now are obeying the regulation requiring familiarity flights, officials said. Familiarity with night-vision goggles of either kind is an ongoing problem in the military, because of limited training time. Miller said tight budgets and noise restrictions limit the amount of night flying the Marines get. At the time of the crash Toburen had not flown with goggles in more than a month. Many pilots think they lose their proficiency with goggles within two weeks, James said.

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In the three months before his death, Toburen spent less than 12 percent of his flying time with goggles on. James said fliers at Fort Campbell, Ky., a center for night-vision goggle use, devote at least 33 percent of their time to goggle flying in order to stay practiced. "Sure we'd like to fly more at night," Miller said. "Why don't we fly at night more? Because the people of Orange County wouldn't like it." Mrs. Toburen said her husband died doing what he loved best. She still supports the Marine Corps and is thankful for all the help it has given her since Toburen died. But she comes home every night to an empty house, with pictures of her husband on the wall, tables and mantle, and nagging doubts remain. "I don't think the Marines should stop flying. They're out there protecting us," she said. "People don't know the sacrifices they make. They give up their time with their families. Some give up their lives. I just want them to be safe. "Something went wrong that night. I don't want what happened to Chris to happen to someone else. He can't have died for nothing." Illustration BLACK & WHITE PHOTO; Caption: Marine 1st Lt. Christopher Toburen poses in 1987 with a helicopter, left, and with his wife, Judy, above, four years earlier.; Caption: Judy Toburen, 29, disputes the investigation report that says her husband's overconfidence led to his fatal helicopter crash.; Credit: H. Lorren Au Jr. Copyright Orange County Register Dec 4, 1988

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Lawsuits: Courts say manufacturers not liable: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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Lawsuits: Courts say manufacturers not liable: [EVENING Edition]


Edward Humes:The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 04 Dec 1988: K16.

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At least two multimillion-dollar lawsuits filed against night-vision goggle manufacturers by the families of crash victims have been dismissed, in part because the companies had warned the military that the goggles were not flightworthy, court records show. The most recent case arose from a March 1984 crash in South Korea of a Tustin-based Marine Corps helicopter, in which 29 servicemen died. The helicopter flew into a mountainside while its pilot and crew wore night-vision goggles designed and built for ground troops, not fliers. The lawsuit, filed by the families of seven crash victims, was dismissed July 15 by New York District Judge Peter K. Leisure, who found that the manufacturer, ITT Corp., had never intended the goggles to be used for flying. The company warned the military of dangers associated with flying with the goggles, and in any case, the military was more familiar with those dangers than ITT, Leisure ruled. In his opinion, Leisure wrote that the only legitimate defendant in the case would be the US government, for knowingly ordering men to fly with the devices. However, no such lawsuit can be filed against the government because the military is immune from suits by servicemen, leaving the families of victims nowhere to turn, Leisure wrote. "The Court is not unsympathetic to the plight of the plaintiffs and their unfortunate position," he wrote. "However, there is no basis in law upon which they may justify substituting ITT for the government." The other case -- filed against ITT and another goggles manufacturer, Litton Systems -- arose from a July 1983 Army crash that killed six. A helicopter on a goggle flight struck an island in Lake Michigan that appeared to be a cloud bank. A Michigan federal judge dismissed the case in 1986 on similar grounds; both cases cited the government contractor defense as justification. This legal defense makes contractors immune to lawsuits so long as their products are not defective, and so long as they warned the government of any hidden dangers. Don Bailey, a San Francisco attorney who represented the families of the Korea crash victims, said the goggles apparently were not defective but were being misused by the military. Had the victims been civilians rather than servicemen, the military's immunity to suits would not apply and they could have sued the government, he said. In the Korea crash, the Marines were using goggles even the Army considered dangerous and would not use for flying -- a full face-mask model that was fine for ground troops but blocked pilots' views of their instruments, depositions in the court case show. ITT night-vision program official Jim Eder said the company has never considered the ground-troop goggles suitable for flying. "ITT's position is that we don't endorse Generation II (infantry goggles) for flight applications," he said. "If you have an alternative, I wouldn't want anyone to use Generation II." Third-generation goggles, built especially for flying, have been in production since 1982 but are few in number. The military continues to fly mostly with the infantry goggles. Copyright Orange County Register Dec 4, 1988

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History: Military long sought ways to let pilots fly in darkness: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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History: Military long sought ways to let pilots fly in darkness: [EVENING Edition]
Edward Humes:The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 04 Dec 1988: k04.

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The West Point grandstands were full, the top brass was on hand, the spring weather was crisp and clear. Everything was set for a revolutionary demonstration, something that could forever change the way man waged war. The year was 1957, and Edward Firth was a young man working on the cutting edge of technology. He was pioneering ways to see in the dark. Six months of trials and practice had led to this moment, a demonstration of how a helicopter could land safely in darkness while a pilot used a pair of infrared binoculars to see clearly at night. On a darkened airfield, only a tiny infrared light, invisible to the naked eye, would be needed as a guidepost. If the demonstration worked, Firth knew, soldiers could be delivered steathily into combat. Isolated troops could be rescued under cover of darkness. In a world where virtually all combat flying had to be performed in daylight, the United States would own the night sky. With so much at stake, commencement day at West Point was chosen for the demonstration, a treat for the new graduates. Firth recalls the moment the two-man helicopter approached, the telltale slapping sound of its blades rising, drawing the crowd to its feet. Then a terrible blast rocked the gathering. "The helicopter exploded a third of a mile short of the airfield," Firth said. "They ran right into some power wires and went down. ... They weren't even close. Both of the pilots were killed." It took six months for Firth to determine what went wrong. His findings revealed a dangerous shortcoming in night-vision devices that persists to this day: All light sources can appear the same to them. Stars, lighted windows and moving lights on other planes all can appear as identical points of light. At the same time, everything in the vicinity of the light source is washed out, difficult to see -- like trying to make out a figure standing next to a spotlight. On that night in 1957, lights were turned off in nearby buildings to eliminate distractions to the pilots. But no one realized that red emergency lights on one rooftop would snap on automatically. To the pilots, that light looked just like the airfield light, while the building itself was indistinguishable, Firth said. The helicopter tried to land where there was no airstrip. "That convinced me," he said. "This was no way to fly." The West Point disaster stalled efforts to use night-vision devices in helicopters for 20 years. Instead, Firth and his colleagues concentrated on producing devices that would enable ground forces to march, drive and shoot in darkness. The researchers soon abandoned infrared sensors -- too blurry and bulky at the time -- in favor of a more promising technology called "image intensification," which the Germans had experimented with during World War II and which is now the basis for most night-vision technology. In image intensification, visible light is elecronically amplified on a small video screen. This gives the human eye, by itself a poor sensor at night, superhuman abilities to see, as long as there is at least some light to amplify.

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By the mid-1970s, the advent of fiber optics and miniaturization had allowed the Army's Night-Vision Laboratory (now the Center for Night Vision and Electro-Optics) at Ft. Belvoir, Va., to shrink previously bulky image intensifiers down to a pair of 1-inch tubes set in goggles that fit a soldier like a diver's mask. Firth was by then the lab's program manager for developing the goggles. He said a great deal of thought went into perfecting them for infantry use. No consideration was given to flightworthiness, for several reasons, records show. First, they were heavy -- more than 2 pounds of plastic and steel, designed to stand up to field conditions. And they were made to fit tightly against the face so they would contain the green glow from the tiny video screens inside. If that glow leaked out, it would provide an easy target for enemy soldiers, Firth said. Because they were like binoculars, focused straight ahead, the goggles provided no peripheral vision. But shooting and driving are mostly straight-ahead kinds of activities, so the deficiency was not considered important, Firth said. It is a severe handicap when flying, however, because pilots need peripheral vision to avoid obstacles and to stay oriented. Another problem inherent in the image-intensification process was a graininess and blurriness that made everyone nearsighted. Normal 20/20 vision is reduced by the goggles to 20/50 vision when the moon is full, and to 20/100 vision when only starlight is available. On clear nights with a full or nearly full moon, the goggles could be used to drive trucks or tanks at speeds up to 35 mph, Firth said. At faster speeds, the goggles would not reveal obstacles to the driver soon enough for him to react. The system was pronounced a rousing success in 1976 and dubbed AN/PVS-5 -- Army-Navy/Portable Vision System, fifth version. Several manufacturers around the country began churning them out. The system was pronounced a rousing success in 1972 and dubbed AN/PVS-5 -- Army-Navy/Portable Vision System, fifth version. Several manufacturers around the country began churning them out. 1983 crash investigation report from the Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. "I am kind of the daddy of this equipment," said Firth, retired from the Army since 1978 and now a resident of Punta Gorda, Fla., where he is a night-vision consultant to police agencies. "I feel terrible every time I read about this. ... Every time I read about night-vision exercises and a crash, I shudder. "They are unsafe for flying. That's not what they were designed for. ... The Army knows the risks." In 1976, Firth said he told the late Donald J. Looft, then director of the night vision lab that he was concerned about the Army's plans to fly with the infantry goggles. Firth said Looft also believed the goggles were dangerous for flying, and that he passed on a warning to Army headquarters. There are no written memos to document this warning, although crash-investigation reports and internal safety publications from Fort Belvoir make clear that the Pentagon was aware of the goggles' inadequacies. A 1983 training guide for pilots from the Army Safety Center states: "The PVS-5s were adopted as an interim pilot's night-vision system without formal development testing/ operational testing for aviation use and with full knowledge that it did not fully meet aviation-user requirements." The report of an aviation safety board, appointed to analyze a 1983 crash, says: "Night-vision goggles were not developed to be compatible with aviation usage." And a May 1983 article in US Army Aviation Digest by Tim Neal, of the Fort Belvoir Night Vision Support Detachment, comments on flying with infantry goggles: "For a number of years the PVS-5s have met with mixed reviews and marginal success in the field. I've never heard anyone comment on how much they enjoy flying with PVS-5s. The facts are that they are heavy, ill-fitting, poor performing and give some of us claustrophobia. PVS-5 limitations have been documented precisely." Firth said the Army aviation command saw the goggles as a "quick fix" to dangers that pilots encountered while flying at night in Vietnam. He said Looft secured a promise that the goggles would be used only for takeoffs and landings. The purpose was to determine whether the image-intensification technology worked well in helicopters. Then, the Army could decide whether to begin work on systems specially designed for pilots, Firth said. The Army Aviation Training Brigade at Fort Rucker commandeered several shipments of infantry goggles for its own use in 1976, did some limited flights using instructors in 1976 and 1977, and began flying with the goggles regularly in about 1978. Use spread quickly throughout the Army worldwide -- and quickly went beyond simple takeoffs and landings, Firth said. Fliers from those days said they learned the goggles' dangers through sometimes fatal trial and error. "When we got those goggles, they just said, go out and see if you could fly with them," said Clyde Emery, a retired helicopter instructor pilot at Rucker, one of the most experienced goggle fliers in the military before he quit in 1981. "It was a three-ring circus. ... I believe we were killing people for nothing."
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It soon became obvious the same qualities that made the goggles ideal for infantry use made them all wrong for aviation, Bob McLean, an Army humanfactors scientist at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, said in an interview. The full face mask prevented pilots from looking under or around the goggles at their instrument panels, McLean said. To read dials and gauges, the lenses of the early goggles had to be painstakingly re-focused; while that was being done, the pilot could not see where he was going. The problem was especially dangerous because most night-vision flights occur at such low altitudes (from 200 to as low as 10 feet above ground level) that a moment's distraction could be deadly, McLean said. It took five years, 10 crashes and 21 deaths before the Army finally figured out a solution that worked. In 1983, the Army instructed its pilots and air crews to cut away the face mask on the goggles, then hook the binocular assembly that remained to their flight helmets with canvas straps, velcro and rubber surgical tubes. The modification allowed pilots to peer under the goggles at their instruments without having to spend time refocusing -- a major advance, said McLean, who perfected the method of cutting away the goggles. To this day, the goggles are cut and mounted that way. But the Marine Corps, which depended on the Army to buy its night-vision equipment, failed to adopt the change until more than a year later, in 1984, records show. In the meantime, the worst night-vision crash on record occurred in Korea in March 1984, killing 29 servicemen. The Marine pilots were wearing full facemask goggles that the Army had declared unacceptably dangerous a year before, according to records and officials. "There's no excuse for that. It was crazy," McLean said. "The services weren't talking. The Marines were trying to reinvent the wheel. ... After that accident, the Marines called us." Even with the face-mask cut away, the goggles offer only a 40-degree field of view, compared to a full 180-degree view with natural sight. To compensate for this built-in lack of peripheral vision, pilots must constantly turn their heads left and right, up and down, scanning for any obstacles -- a task that requires only eye-movement by day. The heavy goggles make the constant head movement extremely tiring after a few hours, according to pilots. Because of this, the Army limits night-vision flights to four hours; the Marine Corps instructs pilots to stay within their "comfort level" without imposing time limits. The new kind of goggles that is supposed to replace the infantry goggles is called the AN/AVS-6 system and is designed specifically for flying. It is now being purchased -- the military bought 2,730 pilot goggles this past fiscal year for $10,400 each -- and is scheduled to replace the infantry goggles by 1991 or 1992. The new goggles are designed to flip up and down on a mount that snaps onto flight helmets. Improved optics hone its vision to 20/40 and it is four times more sensitive to light. The pilot goggles can be operated safely in starlight, whereas the infantry goggles require at least a one-fifth moon -- though many crashes have occurred while pilots struggled with less light. Neal's article cited a study that found the pilot goggles had a mission-success rate of 83.3 percent when used with starlight only. The success rate for the infantry goggles under the same conditions: zero. Technical and budget problems have put acquisition of the new goggles four years behind schedule. Meanwhile, the newest military helicopters and jet fighters are being equipped with extremely accurate, built-in infrared sensors -- the same technology Firth experimented with in the '50s. These devices sense heat as visible light, so that camouflaged tanks or troop encampments invisible to night-vision goggles stand out clearly because of body heat or hot engine exhaust. Infrared sensors have a drawback, however: They are 100 times more costly than night-vision goggles and could not be installed on many of the military's older helicopters. The Army and Navy are experimenting now with jets and helicopters that use infrared sensors as their primary system, with night-vision goggles as a backup. CHARTS: Night-vision goggles at a glance AN/PVS-5 goggles Army-Navy/Portable Vision System, built for infantry use and for truck and tank drivers. Never fully flight tested. Brightness gain: 400 times. Minimum light required to operate: one-fifth full moon unobstructed by clouds. Field of view: 40 degrees. Visual acuity: 20/50 with full moon, to 20/100 in starlight. Weight: 2 pounds. Cost: $5,000. Developed by US Army. Users: US Army, Marine Corps, Air Force. Manufacturers: ITT Electro Optical Products; Litton Systems; Varian Image Tube Divison; Varo, Inc. AN/AVS-6 goggles Army-Navy/Aviators Vision System, built specifically for pilots. Fully flight tested. Brightness gain: 2,000 times. Minimum light needed to
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operate: starlight unobstructed by clouds. Visual acuity: 20/40 in full moon, 20/80 in starlight. Weight: 23 ounces. Cost: $10,400. Developed by US Army. Users: US Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and Israeli air force. Manufacturers: ITT Electro Optical Products; Litton Systems; Varian Image Tube Divison; Varo, Inc. Source: The Register Night-vision goggle dangers Night-vision goggles, while vastly improving pilots' ability to see at night, have shortcomings. The goggles: Obstruct peripheral vision -- crucial for avoiding collisions. Cause nearsightedness. Limit depth perception. Are blinded by bright lights -- such as explosions or flares common in battle. Can be blinded by interior and exterior lighting on most helicopters. Can make distant city lights look like stars, creating a false horizon that disorients pilots. Are blinded in cloudy weather while simultaneously preventing pilots from realizing they are flying into clouds. Sources: US Army, US Marine Corps Illustration CHART; Caption: SEE END OF TEXT FOR CHART INFORMATION. Copyright Orange County Register Dec 4, 1988

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Night-flying capability essential to US security, military says: [EVENING Edition]


Edward Humes :The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 04 Dec 1988: a16.

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Pentagon officials and military-helicopter pilots say an ability to fly combat missions at night is essential to US security and that night-vision goggles often are the only way to get the job done. "While they have limitations, they give us more capabilities than we had without them," said Lt. Gen. Charles H. Pitman, deputy chief of staff for Marine Corps aviation. "... We believe we have to keep doing this so we can be ready when the time comes." No other nation has mastered the art of night flying, giving the US a potentially enormous edge in combat, agreed Maj. Tim McKeever, spokesman for the Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va. "The Russians do not have a very strong night-fighting capability, either on the ground or in aviation," he said. "They are deeply concerned about our nightfighting capability. "Given the fact that we are outnumbered (by Warsaw Pact troops and aircraft) ... flying at night with night-vision goggles sort of evens the odds," McKeever said. While acknowledging some of the failings in night-vision goggles, Pitman said investigators are justified in blaming 52 night-vision crashes and the resulting 134 deaths in the past 10 years on pilot error. "If they (pilots) had followed procedures with each of these accidents we've had ... and used common sense, the accidents wouldn't have occurred," Pitman said. He said the military forbids goggle flying unless the weather is clear enough to allow sufficient moonlight and starlight for the goggles to function. And, he said, pilots are taught how to escape safely from blinding clouds. He said the Marine Corps was replacing its pilots' outdated goggles, designed for ground troops, as quickly as it could with better pilot goggles. The military also is altering cockpit lighting on its helicopters; current lighting systems interfere with goggles, Pitman said. "I think we've done a very good job considering the circumstances," he said. Army officials said the military began flying with infantry goggles because it could not wait for newer, better technology. He said goggles were the only way to overcome shortcomings inherent in military helicopters. Most were designed 10 to 30 years ago and lack the sophisticated radar or infrared sensors built into the more modern jet aircraft. But they still must fly the same low-altitude, radar-dodging missions. Capt. Russell James, an Army spokesman and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot at Fort Campbell, Ky., said the goggles enable pilots to land in darkness without tipping off the enemy. Landing lights would be needed without goggles, he said. "The idea of turning on a spotlight -- that's a shoot-me sign if I've ever seen one," he said. One of the pilots' major concerns, however, is how the goggles will perform in combat. Army attempts to fly helicopters in large combat formations led to several crashes last year, and pilots say the bright explosions and flares of the battlefield will blind pilots wearing goggles. The enemy also can shine spotlights as a deliberate countermeasure to goggles. "That's one of the things we worry about," James said. "Spotlights could blind us ... . It's like someone put their hands over our eyes." Illustration

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BLACK & WHITE PHOTO; Caption: Marine Lt. Gen. Charles H. Pitman - `I think we've done a very good job' Copyright Orange County Register Dec 4, 1988

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Helicopter crashes: 134 lives lost since pilots began using goggles Author: Edward Humes:The Register. Publication info: Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 04 Dec 1988: K14. Military helicopter crashes involving the use of night-vision goggles have claimed 134 lives, injured 103 other servicemen, destroyed 62 aircraft and led to an estimated $180 million in damage. Here is a brief listing of those crashes, culled from military accident-investigation reports. Unless otherwise noted, the accidents were blamed on pilot error. Boldface entries are Orange County-related incidents. Oct. 25, 1988: Ten servicemen, two from Camp Pendleton, were killed when a UH-1 Huey and a CH-46 Sea Knight collided in midair, under a full moon and clear skies in the Arizona desert. The mission was under the command of El Toro Marine officials. The crash cause is still under investigation. May 18, 1988 Two Army fliers at Fort Hood, Texas, were seriously injured when their OH-58 Kiowa observation chopper ran into the ground while the pilot thought he was hovering. April 28, 1988 An Army MH-6 Cayuse gunship at Fort Campbell, Ky., sank after striking water during a training flight. No one was injured. April 11, 1988 Eight soldiers were injured in the Panama Canal Zone when two UH-60 Blackhawk Army helicopters collided during takeoff, when light levels were too low for the goggles to function. March 3, 1988 With overcast blocking moonlight, two Army UH-60 Blackhawks, each cruising at 90 mph, collided over Fort Campbell, Ky., killing 17. Jan. 27, 1988: Hovering in blowing sand, an Army UH-60 Blackhawk at Fort Stewart, Ga., drifted into a hill and rolled over, injuring four. Dec. 10, 1987: An Army CH-47 Chinook transport chopper at Fort Campbell, Ky., landed on top of a howitzer its pilot could not see, but pulled up before major damage was done. No one was injured. Nov. 22, 1987 A Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight from Tustin struck the side of an aircraft carrier during an emergency landing, killing one and injuring 24 servicemen. The pilot and crew chief were wearing goggles, but the co-pilot was not. Nov. 17, 1987 An Army UH-60 Blackhawk struck power wires while flying without moonlight; despite extensive damage, it made an emergency landing without injuries. Sept. 26, 1987 An Army CH-47 Chinook at Fort Campbell, Ky., on a classified mission struck a building on top of a mountain, destroying the chopper without injuring five on board. Sept. 3, 1987 A Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight from Tustin struck a mountain after flying into clouds that were impossible to see by pilots wearing goggles. Four Marines died.

July 15, 1987 Six Army fliers were killed and one was injured in San Salvador when a UH-1H Huey from Fort Stewart, Ga., flew into a hill at 90 miles an hour after entering clouds. June 15, 1987 With almost no moonlight or starlight, an Army CH-47 Chinook accidentally descended and hit the ocean, but was able to lift back up and make it to shallow waters without injuring the five on board. Extensive corrosion wrecked the chopper. April 27, 1987: An East Coast-based Army special forces MH-6 Cayuse chopper crashed at sea off Orange County's coast, killing the co-pilot and injuring the pilot. March 12, 1987 An Army UH-60 Blackhawk on maneuvers in Korea ran into trees, but made an emergency landing in a rice paddy without injuring the 16 on board. March 5, 1987 Two Oklahoma Army National Guard MH-6 Cayuse helicopters flying in formation near Tulsa collided when one attempted to pass the other. Two died and one serviceman was injured. March 3, 1987 An Army OH-58 Kiowa helicopter crashed at Fort Carson, Colo., and its twoman crew was injured when they attempted to autorotate -- land without engine power -- but could not see the ground. Feb. 12, 1987 Three Marine reservists from El Toro were killed when their CH-46 Sea Knight crashed in Trabuco Canyon after flying into clouds. Jan. 28, 1987 Three Army fliers were injured when their UH-60 Blackhawk ran into the ground in Germany while flying over snowy, featureless terrain. Dec. 22, 1986 Three Army fliers were killed and three were injured in a midair collision of UH60 Blackhawks in Korea. The choppers were returning from a goggle training flight and collided during a passing maneuver. Dec. 9, 1986 An Army OH-58 helicopter ran into fog during final approach to the Fort Rucker, Ala., airfield. It struck the ground, kiling two on board. Nov. 11, 1986 An Army UH-60 on a classified mission in the Bahamas -- possibly an antidrug flight -- ran into the ocean. None of the eight men on board was injured. Aug. 13, 1986 Six Army fliers were injured when two UH-1 Huey helicopters collided during landings at Fort Campbell, Ky. Moonlight was sufficient for the goggles to function, but postcrash tests revealed several pairs to be flawed. July 26, 1986 An Army UH-1 Huey from Fort Bragg, NC, on maneuvers in Egypt, hit the ground when its pilot became disoriented by blowing dust. No one was injured. May 15, 1986 A Marine Corps helicopter, location unknown, drifted left and descended inadvertently during a hover, hitting the ground. There was extensive damage to the helicopter, but no injuries. April 9, 1986 In clear skies and good lighting, eight Army fliers were killed in a head-on

collision between a CH-47 troop transport and an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter at Fort Stewart, Ga. Feb. 11, 1986 An MH-6 Army special-forces helicopter, on a classified mission in a classified location, hit the water. The helicopter was destroyed, but the two on board were uninjured. Dec. 9, 1985 An Army UH-60 Blackhawk stationed at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, ran into power lines, killing one and injuring three. Dec. 9, 1985 An Army CH-47 Chinook stationed at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, ran into power lines, but made an emergency landing without injuring the seven on board. The pilot, wearing goggles, could not see the wires; a crewmen in back, without goggles, saw the wires but could not warn the pilot in time. A special investigation showed 43 out of 44 goggles in the unit were defective and in need of repair. Sept. 25, 1985 An Army OH-58 stationed in Germany struck wires and crashed, injuring two on board. Investigators found the goggles were not good enough to allow pilots to see wires. Sept. 16, 1985 A Marine Corps AH-1 Cobra gunship aboard the USS Iwo Jima crashed into the ocean while flying with insufficient light for the goggles to function. Sept. 5, 1985 A Marine Corps CH-46 Sea Knight at New River, NC, crashed into trees; none of the five on board was injured. Investigators, while blaming pilot error, also found the goggles have a design deficiency -- they are too heavy and unstable when attached to flight helmets. July 10, 1985 An Army UH-1 flying over Salt Lake City ran into the lake, injuring two on board, after the goggles made stars reflected in the water appear to be stars in the sky. April 18, 1985 Two Air Force fliers were killed when their OA-37 crashed into the Caribbean Sea 10 minutes after leaving La Mesa, Honduras. Jan. 8, 1985 Eight Army fliers were injured when their taxiing UH-60 Blackhawks collided at Camp Casey, South Korea. Dec. 12, 1984 An Army UH-1 helicopter assigned to the multinational peacekeeping force in the Sinai ran into the ground, injuring all four on board. Dec. 10, 1984 One Army flier was killed when his OH-58 helicopter struck a hill during an unauthorized flight. Nov. 15, 1984 An Army UH-60 Blackhawk at Fort Campbell was forced to drop a jeep it was carrying on a sling when the helicopter flew into fog the pilot had not seen approaching. No one was injured. Nov. 7, 1984 One Army flier was killed and another was injured when their OH-58 ran into wires and crashed near El Paso, Texas. Oct. 25, 1984 An Army UH-60 Blackhawk carrying cargo slung beneath the chopper ran into

fog, then trees. It jettisoned its load, then made an emergency landing. No one was injured. Oct. 17, 1984 Six Air Force fliers were killed when their HH-53H Sea Stallion helicopter struck a mountain during maneuvers in the Philippines. Sept. 28, 1984 In a barely averted disaster, no one was injured when an OH-58 and an AH-6 collided at Fort Campbell, Ky. Although skies were clear, the OH-58 pilot never saw the other helicopter, while the AH-6 pilot saw the lights of the other chopper but could not judge its distance or direction. A last-second evasive dive by the AH-6 pilot prevented a fatal head-on collision, and the rotors of his helicopter merely whacked off one of the OH-58's landing skids. July 26, 1984 An Army National Guard MH-6 Cayuse helicopter was on final approach to a Tulsa airfield when its pilot became disoriented and flew into a lake. No one was injured. March 24, 1984 Twenty-nine servicemen were killed when a Marine Corps CH-53D Sea Stallion from Tustin on maneuvers in Korea ran into clouds and struck a mountain. Feb. 9, 1984 Four Army fliers were injured when their UH-1 Huey ran into a road sign and set down hard while the pilot attempted to land at an intersection near the White Sands Missile Range, NM. Oct. 18, 1983 Four Army fliers were killed when their UH-60 Blackhawk slammed into trees at Fort Lewis, Wash. July 10, 1983 Six Army fliers were killed when their CH-47 Chinook slammed into an island in Lake Michigan that had appeared in the goggles to be a fog bank. There was insufficient light that night for the goggles to function properly. June 6, 1983 One Army flier was killed and another injured when their OH-58 began an unnoticed drift during a hover at Wheeler Air Force Base in Hawaii and slammed into a parked helicopter. April 26, 1983 As an Army AH-1 Cobra pilot focused his night-vision goggles inside the cockpit in order to adjust a radio, the helicopter struck trees and crashed at Fort Campbell, Ky. No one was injured. March 31, 1983 During autorotation practice -- landing without engine power -- at Fort Hood, Texas, a pilot of an Army AH-1 Cobra couldn't see the ground and landed hard, severing the tail of the chopper. No one was injured. March 11, 1982 One Army flier was injured when an AH-1 Cobra on autorotation practice hit the ground too hard and severed its tail. Dec. 15, 1981 Four Army fliers were killed when two OH-58 Kiowa helicopters collided at Fort Rucker, Ala., while hovering over the airfield. Nov. 20, 1981 The pilot of an AH-1 Cobra at Fort Campbell, Ky., experienced sudden goggle failure, but the co-pilot did not hear his request to relinquish control of the chopper. It

slammed into trees and burned. The two on board were injured. Investigators blamed pilot error and "an undetermined internal failure" of the goggles, which were destroyed in the crash. Sept. 21, 1981 Seven servicemen were killed when an Air Force C-130 transport carrying 68 passengers hit the ground too hard at a darkened Nevada airfield, collapsing the nose gear. Fire then consumed the plane. June 22, 1981 During autorotation practice at Fort Rucker, Ala., the pilot of an Army UH-1 Huey became disoriented and struck the ground hard, rolling the chopper and injuring two on board. Nov. 15, 1980 Two Army AH-1 Cobra gunship fliers were injured while flying at Yuma, Ariz., during night rocket-firing practice. Their goggles were blinded by flashes, smoke and dust from rockets and they struck the ground in a spin. April 24, 1980 Eight servicemen were killed and four were injured when an RH-53D Sea Stallion rammed into a parked C-130 transport plane during the ill-fated Iran hostage rescue mission. July 14, 1978 Three Army fliers were killed when their UH-1 Huey ran into fog, then struck the ground, near the Fort Rucker, Ala., airfield. April 10, 1978 Three Army fliers were killed when their UH-1 Huey ran into fog, then struck the ground, at Fort Rucker, Ala. April 18, 1977 A hovering Army UH-1 Huey on maneuvers in Germany hit a parked chopper and crashed, injuring one serviceman. Publication title: Orange County Register Pages: K14 Number of pages: 0 Publication year: 1988 Publication date: Dec 4, 1988 Year: 1988 Section: NEWS Publisher: Orange County Register Place of publication: Santa Ana, Calif. Country of publication: United States Journal subject: General Interest Periodicals--United States ISSN: 08864934 Source type: Newspapers Language of publication: English

Document type: NEWSPAPER ProQuest document ID: 272213403 Document URL: http://search.proquest.com/docview/272213403?accountid=9840 Copyright: Copyright Orange County Register Dec 4, 1988 Last updated: 2010-06-14 Database: ProQuest Newsstand _______________________________________________________________ Contact ProQuest Copyright 2012 ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. - Terms and Conditions

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An accident waiting to happen' Expert's warning about goggles disputed by Army official: [EVENING Edition]
Edward Humes:The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 22 Mar 1989: a01.

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The Army's misuse of night-vision goggles makes helicopter training missions "an accident waiting to happen," a veteran Army flight instructor told a congressional panel Tuesday. David E. Broadnax, a decorated helicopter pilot who co-wrote the Army's original night-vision goggles training manual, urged the military to ground its goggles for at least a month to revamp its program with increased safety in mind. "If we're training so close to the edge of our human limits and the limits of night-vision devices, to the point where pilots are making grave mistakes and every time they get into the air at night they feel like they're hanging on by their fingernails ... then we're going too far," Broadnax said. "If the training is so realistic that it kills ... there will be no meaningful training or experience gained," he said. In reply, Maj. Gen. Ellis Parker, head of Army pilot training, defended his goggles program, refused to consider a temporary grounding and said the Army would increase, not limit, flights with the binocularlike, light-amplifying devices. Repeating past Pentagon statements, he said flying with the goggles was a difficult but necessary way to evade enemy radar by flying low to the ground at night. But the members of the House Armed Services Investigations Subcommittee were unswayed. Before a packed hearing room, they were harshly critical of the Army and its goggles program, leaving some of the 30 or more Army officials in the audience muttering under their breath. "It's out of whack," said Rep. Nicholas Mavroules, D-Mass., subcommittee chairman. "The accidents have been going up. ... We have a problem. Let's face up to it." Mavroules said the committee would consider a range of recommendations to the military to halt crashes during night-vision goggles flights, including grounding an obsolete, sometimes dangerous type of goggles still in predominate use on military helicopters. These "interim" goggles, designed for ground troops, not pilots, were supposed to have been replaced with improved pilot goggles in 1983, but delays have kept them in use. Broadnax, 39, now a civilian flight instructor at Fort Jackson, SC, was the first witness before the subcommittee, which is probing a series of fatal goggles crashes that the military blames on pilot error. The investigation began at the request of Rep. Frank McCloskey, D-Ind., after reports in the Register in December that 135 servicemen had died and 62 helicopters had been destroyed when pilots flew their aircraft into the ground, water, mountains, wires or one another while peering through the goggles. The death toll during night-vision goggles flights has since risen to 150 lives and 69 helicopters lost. Most of the crashes were of Army choppers. Broadnax told the subcommittee that the Army is too quick to pin blame for the crashes on pilots. Records obtained by the Register show that pilot error has been blamed for virtually every night-vision goggles accident, often because pilots supposedly exceeded the limitations of the goggles. These limitations include lack of peripheral vision, limited depth perception and vision as poor as 20/100 -- all crucial aspects of eyesight that pilots rely on to avoid crashes. "Pilot error is a very difficult thing to swallow," Broadnax said. "A pilot would not land on another aircraft or run into another aircraft in midair during daylight hours, so why would he do it at night? "To call an accident -- that has happened at night without proper safety procedures and guidelines -- pilot error is a disservice to our pilots and to their

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family members. ... It's obvious we're asking them to perform beyond their limitations." Broadnax described accidents that occurred during flights of helicopters with too little moonlight for the goggles to operate properly. Under such condition, the goggles can be overcome by video noise -- "It looks like a thousands sparklers going off" -- while landing zones can appear to be bottomless "black holes" where obstacles are invisible and death might await. The subcommittee also heard from David Rosenthal, an Army reserve pilot and flight-test engineer at the China Lake Naval Weapons Station near Barstow. Rosenthal made a study of accidents with goggles and found that 86 percent occurred when there was too little moonlight -- less than 23 percent full and 30 degrees above the horizon, the minimum Army guideline. The Register updated his study last week and found that the percentage had climbed: 90.2 percent of all goggles crashes, 37 out of 41, occurred when there was too little moonlight. The problem is especially severe with the PVS-5 goggles designed for ground troops. The Army has about 8,000 of these, compared with about 4,000 AVS-6 goggles, designed specifically for pilots and capable of operating with starlight and no moonlight. Broadnax and Rosenthal said flights with the older truck-driver goggles should be limited or stopped when there is no moon. Rosenthal said many accidents can be attributed to use of these goggles in low moonlight. Parker disputed this and promised to hold a closed session with the subcommittee in which he would present classified accident reports that blame pilot error and other problems, not low moonlight or the goggles. He said flying in low moonlight was safe. However, he said the Army was studying Rosenthal's findings. Parker asserted that flying with goggles had grown safer because every year for the past three years and that the overall helicopter accident rate, day and night, had declined. He said he could not produce an Army-wide accident rate for goggles flying alone, although officials are working on such figures. According to Army statistics, 32 percent to 38 percent of its 1.8 million hours of flying time is at night, and half of that, 16 percent to 19 percent, includes goggles use. But in recent years, the percentage of total crashes that occurred with goggles has climbed steadily, and reached 25 percent in 1987, McCloskey said and records confirm. Mavroules noted that more than half of all the Army accidents with goggles occurred during the past two years. "How do you explain that?" he asked Parker. "Is there a major problem?" "I don't think there's a major problem," Parker replied. But neither he nor the roomful of experts accompanying him were able to respond to Mavroules' statement that goggles crashes had skyrocketed. When the general turned to an audio-visual presentation on the Army's overall safety statistics, Mavroules sharply cut him off, saying the slide show "did not focus on the issue." At one point in his presention, while illustrating the virtues of the new pilot goggles, Parker mistakenly picked up one of the obsolete pairs to show the subcommittee and had to be corrected by a subordinate. Mavroules also demanded an explanation for internal Army memos that say the older infantry goggles "have resulted in the tragic and unnecessary loss of human life." Parker said the older goggles are safe but "more demanding." The subcommittee will take no action until several more hearings are held, the Army replies to dozens of written questions from the committee members, and a report by the committee staff is completed. But Mavroules said he was considering supporting several recommendations from Rosenthal and Broadnax, including: Grounding or restricting the infantry goggles. Requiring the military to do a complete evaluation of goggles testing and training. Requiring a study of human factors that increase the likelihood of so-called pilot errors when goggles are in use. Discontinuing formation flights with goggles until safer practices are studied. Copyright Orange County Register Mar 22, 1989

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Army urged to halt night-goggle flights: [EVENING Edition]


Edward Humes:The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 08 Dec 1988: a08.

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The Army should immediately ban pilots' use of outdated night-vision goggles that have been linked to dozens of helicopter crashes and the deaths of 130 servicemen, a member of the House Armed Services Committee said Wednesday. In a Wednesday letter, Rep. Frank McCloskey, D-Ind., called on Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh Jr. to halt flying with the goggles, and to explain why the military has been slow to replace them with safer equipment. According to Lt. Col. John Reitz, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, officials had not seen the letter and could not comment. McCloskey's letter -- and his renewed request for a congressional investigation -- came in response to stories in Sunday's editions of the Register, which detailed 10 years of crashes and safety problems with night-vision goggles that the Pentagon knew were unsafe. The stories revealed that for the past decade, the military has required pilots to fly helicopters with night-vision goggles that never had been flight-tested and were designed for ground troops and truck drivers, not pilots. Documents obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act show that the Pentagon was aware from the outset that "night-vision goggles were not developed to be compatible with aviation," and that their flaws contributed to crashes. Manufacturers also consider them unsuitable for flight. Since 1978, 134 servicemen have died and 62 helicopters have crashed during flights in which pilots wore night-vision goggles. Of those, 56 of the wrecks and 130 deaths occurred during flights with infantry goggles; six accidents and four deaths have occurred since 1986 while pilots wore improved goggles designed for flying. "I think this is startling information," McCloskey said in an interview. "I do want (House Armed Services Committee) hearings come January or February." In his letter to Marsh, he acknowledged he had no independent confirmation of the goggles' inadequacies, but said: "... My own impressions, from conversations with the father of a young Marine Corps pilot who told me his son is terrified of night flying, lead me to believe that exploring safety, training and procurement goals associated with night-vision goggles are a legitimate topic of inquiry." Rep. Bill Nichols, D-Ala., chairman of the Armed Services Committee's investigations subcommittee, said McCloskey's request for an investigation of nightvision goggles was under consideration. McCloskey said that in recent conversations, both Nichols and the committee chairman, Les Aspin, D-Wis., supported his request for a full investigation of goggle safety, training and the findings by the military that blame the crashes on pilot error. McCloskey first called for an investigation after 10 servicemen died in an Oct. 25 midair collision in Arizona between two Marine Corps helicopters on nightvision goggle flights. In a letter the next day, he expressed fears that the cause of the crash might be similar to the cause of a midair collision that killed 17 soldiers in Kentucky in March. Both crashes involved the use of the infantry goggles. He called for suspension of all goggle flights until safety and training could be studied further. In his reply, Marsh said the Army could not afford to stop flying with goggles because pilots would have lost their ability to use them safely once a ban was lifted. Marsh wrote that the Army was flying with 12,928 infantry goggles and 3,635 pilot goggles, with more purchases of the pilot goggles scheduled for this year.

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Army and Marine Corps records show that safety officials have long been aware of the problems the goggles created for pilots. The problems include loss of peripheral vision, impaired depth perception, blurred eyesight, disorientation, visual illusions, an inability to read vital instruments and gauges, and a tendency to be blinded in cloudy weather while simultaneously preventing pilots from noticing that they are flying into clouds. "For a number of years the PVS-5 (ground-troop) goggles have met with mixed reviews and marginal success in the field," wrote Army night-vision specialist Tim Neal, in a May 1983 article in the US Army Aviation Digest. "The facts are that they are heavy, ill-fitting, poor-performing and give some of us claustrophobia." Neal said the problems would be solved by November 1983, when new pilot goggles were to replace the infantry goggles. But budgetary and technical problems halted that replacement, and it is now five years behind, records show. In his reply to McCloskey's October letter, Marsh said the Army could find no evidence of a pattern in recent goggle accidents. McCloskey said he believes that the Army should rely exclusively on the pilot goggles if it is going to continue its low-altitude, radar-evading night missions. The Army, Marine Corps and Air Force have all flown with the infantry goggles. The Army and Marines still rely mostly on the older goggles; the Air Force, which uses the fewest goggles of the military services, converted completely to the new pilot goggles in 1986. Its three fatal goggle crashes all occurred before then. The Navy has never allowed its pilots to fly with the infantry goggles, but is now training fliers to use the new pilot goggles. Copyright Orange County Register Dec 8, 1988

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Dornan calls for halt to night-goggle flights pending investigation: [EVENING Edition]
Edward Humes:The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 07 Feb 1989: A05.

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Military flights with night-vision goggles should be halted while Congress investigates a series of fatal helicopter crashes involving the devices, Rep. Robert Dornan, R-Garden Grove, said Monday. In an interview, Dornan said he is joining a Democratic colleague, Rep. Frank McCloskey of Indiana, in asking the Pentagon to ground the goggles until Congress can complete its investigation. McCloskey has made that request repeatedly. "In peacetime, there's no reason to jeopardize lives," Dornan said. "Let us finish the investigation -- that's where Congress really shines." Military officials previously have denied the request, saying the goggles are safe. But Dornan, like McCloskey, said he was convinced a grounding and a congressional investigation were necessary after reports last December in the Register that detailed how flaws in the goggles have caused pilots to blindly fly their helicopters into the ground, water, trees or other aircraft. More than 134 servicemen have died and 62 helicopters have crashed in the past 10 years during flights with the goggles, according to documents obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act. The issue heated up last week after yet another crash involving night-vision goggles, this time at Fort Ord in Northern California. One pilot was killed and another seriously injured during an apparent midair collision. McCloskey and Dornan are members of the House Armed Services Committee, which has begun a probe of the the goggles through its investigations subcommittee. Dornan, a former military jet-fighter pilot, said helicopter pilots need to fly at night to avoid enemy fire. But flying through darkness close to the ground is extremely difficult and requires more training and experience than many pilots have, he said. "I wouldn't let anyone touch them (night-vision goggles) without 500 hours of (non-goggle) night flying under their belt," Dornan said. The goggles amplify moonlight and starlight thousands of times, allowing pilots to see better in the dark. But at the same time, depth perception is eliminated, peripheral vision is impaired and normal 20-20 eyesight is reduced to 20-50 or worse. Dornan said he believed a congressional investigation would show a need for better and more training. McCloskey said he wants to know why the military still relies mostly on obsolete goggles that were designed for ground troops and truck drivers and were never intended nor fully tested for flight. A new type of pilot goggle, far more capable, has been available since 1983, but problem-plagued procurement programs have kept pilots dependent on obsolete goggles years longer than planned, records obtained by the Register show. One 1988 memo says the military's continued use of the obsolete goggles has "resulted in tragic and unnecessary loss of human life," and predicts crashes will continue. Illustration BLACK & WHITE PHOTO; Caption: Rep. Robert Dornan - R-Garden Grove Copyright Orange County Register Feb 7, 1989

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People Title Author Publication title Pages Number of pages Publication year Publication date Year Section Publisher Place of publication Country of publication Journal subject ISSN Source type Language of publication Document type ProQuest document ID Document URL Copyright Last updated Database

Dornan, Robert K, McCloskey, Frank Dornan calls for halt to night-goggle flights pending investigation: [EVENING Edition] Edward Humes :The Register Orange County Register A05 0 1989 Feb 7, 1989 1989 NEWS Orange County Register Santa Ana, Calif. United States General Interest Periodicals--United States 08864934 Newspapers English NEWSPAPER 272274504 http://search.proquest.com.lib-proxy.fullerton.edu/docview/272274504? accountid=9840 Copyright Orange County Register Feb 7, 1989 2010-06-14 ProQuest Newsstand

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Hearing puts night goggles in spotlight House panel to probe fatal copter crashes: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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Hearing puts night goggles in spotlight House panel to probe fatal copter crashes: [EVENING Edition]
Edward Humes:The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 19 Mar 1989: a01.

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On an empty stretch of desert, hard and flat as a skillet, about 100 tiny flags flutter in a hot, anemic breeze. Spread over 50 yards of Arizona scrub, the orange pennants mark the charred and scattered wreckage that one week ago was a helicopter on a night-vision goggle flight. Similar flags map spots where the bodies of 15 young servicemen were pulled from the rubble a week ago, mute memorials to the latest disaster involving light-amplifying goggles. As Air Force investigators work in secret this week with their flags and twisted metal -- trying to explain the crash, but not blaming the goggles -- Congress is in the midst of a very different investigation, one aimed directly at the controversial night-vision devices. At a hearing to begin Tuesday at the Capitol, the House Armed Services investigations subcommittee will question Army officials and other witnesses on the safety of night-vision goggles and on the dozens of fatal crashes linked to their use. US Rep. Frank McCloskey, D-Ind., who called for the investigation, repeatedly has asked the military to ground the devices at least until the probe is complete. Of particular concern are the obsolete, jury-rigged goggles now in predominant use by the military -- a device designed for ground troops and truck drivers, not pilots. "Given the continuing wreckage and loss of life, it seems to be a reasonable request to temporarily suspend these missions," McCloskey said after the latest crash. "My greatest concern is that the death and destruction will continue if steps are not taken to prevent it." The desolate scene of crumpled metal and lost lives under scrutiny in Tucson has been replayed many times in many places. Counting the Arizona crash, at least 150 US servicemen have died and at least 69 military helicopters have been destroyed during flights in which pilots wore night-vision goggles, military records show. An additional 105 servicemen have suffered major injuries, including paralysis, brain damage and severe burns. Damage has totaled at least $185 million. The decision to begin a congressional investigation followed a report in December in the Register detailing the goggles' flaws and the related crashes and deaths. The crash outside Tucson on March 12 came at the worst possible time for the military, already on the defensive on the night-vision issue. It has brought added attention and urgency to the committee hearing, and the witness list was expanded late last week to include a California flight-test engineer with evidence that the military takes unnecessary and dangerous risks with the goggles. The Tuscon crash followed a collision between two Army helicopters March 11 in Alaska during a night-vision goggle flight. One pilot was injured and two helicopters were destroyed during a night assault on a frozen lake bed. One chopper landed too close to another, meshing rotor blades and sending a potentially deadly rain of flying metal into the air. Collisions between aircraft have occurred at least 11 previous times when pilots wore the goggles, which eliminate peripheral vision, impair depth perception and impede the ability to judge distances between objects. The binocularlike, battery-powered devices, hooked onto a flight helmet, boost a pilot's night vision tremendously, but reduce the clarity of that vision from 20/40 at best to as low as 20/100. Air Force and Army officials say they do not know what caused either of the recent crashes, although an Air Force spokesman said almost immediately that the Tucson crash could not have been caused by goggles, even though the devices were in use. Others, including pilots and night-vision experts, believe the goggles could have been a factor, by hampering the crew's ability to handle a malfunction. In any case, the Air Force's statement exonerating the goggles was consistent: The military has blamed pilot error, not the goggles, for almost all nightvision crashes in the past, records show.

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While Tuesday's hearing might not settle the night-vision goggle issue, several key questions probably will be asked, according to congressional officials: Is the military's use of obsolete goggles unsafe? Although internal Army memos say the old truck-driver goggles must be replaced and have caused unnecessary deaths and crashes, most pilots still use them. Why has the military moved so slowly to replace old goggles with better systems designed for pilots? Lighter, more capable goggles have been in existence since 1982, but are only beginning to replace the older goggles and will not completely phase them out until 1995. Is the military using the goggles unsafely? A Register analysis of the past 41 Army helicopter crashes in which goggles were in use shows that 37 -- 90.2 percent -- occurred when pilots were ordered to fly with too little moonlight for the goggles to function properly. Both types of goggles, but especially the obsolete models, are crippled when there is little or no moonlight. Is the military moving quickly enough to adopt new, safer night-vision technology? State of the art night-vision devices exist, using thermal imagery, clear plastic viewers that preserve peripheral vision, and "head-up" displays that allow a pilot to see course, altitude, speed and other crucial data superimposed on his view through the goggles. Any one of these three improvements would make for a safer night-vision device, according to studies by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Has the military oversold the value of goggles? Pentagon officials defend the use of night-vision goggles as crucial to national security, saying survival on the battlefield depends on the ability to fly low, radar-evading targets. But its own manuals state that goggles could not operate in battlefield conditions, where flares, smoke, lasers and any source of bright light would render the goggles useless. Lt. Gen. Charles Pitman, head of Marine Corps aviation, has said goggles are an inexpensive way to install a night-flying capability on the military's mostly aging fleet of helicopters -- most of which were designed with only daytime combat in mind. The trucker goggles cost about $6,000 a pair and the pilot goggles $12,000, while the more versatile but large and costly thermal imagers, which sense heat rather than light, cost $500,000 to $1 million each. Maj. Gen. D.E.P. Miller, commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in Orange County and former spokesman for the Marine Corps, said the military needs to practice night-vision flying even with obsolete devices. However, he said, the public scrutiny and congressional hearings aimed at the goggles could lead to better funding for improved night-vision devices. "Hopefully, that's what will come of all this," he said. "But right now, we've got to fly with what we've got. When there's war, you come as you are." He noted that his standing orders, as well as Marine Corps-wide guidance, bar goggle flights when there is no moon. One of the witnesses to be called at Tuesday's hearing, David A. Rosenthal, conducted a study in 1987 of night-vision goggle crashes that found Army helicopter crashes most often occurred when there was too little moonlight. Rosenthal, a flight engineer at the China Lake Naval Weapons Station near Barstow, is also an Army reserve helicopter pilot. The Register updated his study and found that the percentage of Army crashes that occurred in little or no moonlight had risen to 90.2 percent. In addition to Rosenthal, other witnesses scheduled to testify Tuesday include David E. Broadmax, a civilian instructor pilot who pioneered the Army's nightvision program but who is said to have reservations about the Army's current practices; Maj. Gen. Ellis D. Parker, head of the Army Aviation Center at Ft. Rucker, Ala.; Maj. Gen. Thomas D. Reese, head of night-vision research and development; and Brig. Gen. Clyde A. Hennies, director of Army Safety. The committee investigation could touch on some other problems with night-vision goggles that are inherent in the helicopters, not the goggles themselves, including problems with helicopter lighting, officials said. The aged CH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter that crashed in Tucson last week,for example, has lighting that is incompatible with goggles. Its emergency warning lights had to be masked with tape, because if they came on in flight they would dazzle and shut down the goggles, said Maj. Chan Morse, a pilot who flew in the same squadron as the downed chopper. It is conceivable that an emergency light could have come on but was not visible to the aircrew, contributing to the crash by allowing a mechanical problem to become a catastrophe, several pilots said. Air Force officials have ruled out goggles as a factor in the crash, although they do not know what the cause might have been. They justify ruling out the goggles because the helicopter was supposed to be flying at an altitude of 1,000 feet at the time of the crash -- far above any obstacles. Most goggle
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crashes occur at low altitudes where pilots fail to see wires, mountains or other objects. Witnesses, however, reported seeing the helicopter at low altitudes in the minutes before the crash. Even if a mechanical failure inside the helicopter caused the crash, the goggles could have been a factor, impairing the pilot's ability to make an emergency landing, said Art Conroy, an ex-Marine captain and helicopter goggle pilot. Rather than have thousands of helicopter pilots trained in their use, as is now the case, Conroy said goggles should be limited to a small, elite group trained for covert missions using the devices. Such secret missions -- like the failed Iran hostage rescue of 1980, one of the military's first goggle disasters -- would benefit from judicious use of goggles, Conroy said. But because smoke and light render the goggles useless, they cannot be used in battle, and plans to have huge assaults with helicopters piloted by goggle-equipped pilots are foolish, he said. "They're just trying to do too much," he said. "That's why they're running into problems." Copyright Orange County Register Mar 19, 1989

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Cite Rosenthal, David Hearing puts night goggles in spotlight House panel to probe fatal copter crashes: [EVENING Edition] Edward Humes :The Register Orange County Register a01 0 1989 Mar 19, 1989 1989 NEWS Orange County Register Santa Ana, Calif. United States General Interest Periodicals--United States 08864934 Newspapers English NEWSPAPER 272300733 http://search.proquest.com.lib-proxy.fullerton.edu/docview/272300733? accountid=9840 Copyright Orange County Register Mar 19, 1989 2010-06-14 ProQuest Newsstand

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Report links goggles to copters' collision Marine probe of desert crasight-vision devices: [EVENING Edition] - ProQuest Newsstand - ProQuest

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Report links goggles to copters' collision Marine probe of desert crash is first to implicate night-vision devices: [EVENING Edition]
Edward Humes:The Register. Orange County Register [Santa Ana, Calif] 23 Apr 1989: A01.

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A fatal collision of Marine helicopters in October was caused in part by problems with light-amplifying night-vision goggles, according to a preliminary investigation report obtained by the Register. The report, still under review by Marine Corps brass, represents the first time goggle inadequacies have been implicated so prominently in a military crash investigation. Previously, military officials have insisted that flights with night-vision goggles are safe and that the devices never have caused a crash. At least 150 servicemen have died and 69 helicopters have been destroyed in accidents involving the goggles, but military officials have blamed almost all of them on pilot error, records show. The new report is likely to add fuel to a congressional investigation that is challenging the Pentagon's assurances about the safety of night-vision flights, said Rep. Frank McCloskey, the House Armed Services Committee member who requested the probe. "Now, more than ever, I'm going to continue pursuing this," said McCloskey, D-Ind. "The report clearly slams the goggles." Written by Marine Lt. Col. John J. Niemyer, an experienced helicopter pilot and former squadron commander at Camp Pendleton, the investigation report examines the cause of an Oct. 25 midair collision during night war games above the Arizona desert. Ten servicemen died when a UH-1N Huey utility helicopter from Camp Pendleton and a CH-46E Sea Knight transport chopper based on the East Coast slammed into one another, then exploded and burned. Niemyer's cautiously worded report first seems to point to a "breakdown in crew coordination" -- a type of human error commonly used to blame accidents on pilots and crew members. But in this case, the human error is directly linked to the goggles. Niemyer concluded that "degraded depth perception, a factor of flying on the goggles," probably prevented pilots from seeing the impending collision and avoiding it. Pilots in nearby helicopters saw the two choppers before they crashed, but the goggles made it appear as if there was no danger, the report says. The same probably was true aboard the choppers that crashed, he reported. The report also states that the deceptively bright images produced by the devices might have led the doomed fliers to "succumb to the common tendency to overfly the capabilities of the goggles." In other words, the pilots might have been tricked into flying faster than they could react. Finally, the report says, flying with the goggles on certain types of missions might overload pilots and crews with tasks, pushing them beyond their abilities. "We know the limitations of the aircraft and the night-vision goggles ... but do our current procedures correctly address the human limitations?" the report asks. To stop similar accidents in the future, an exhaustive study of "human factors" and workload problems during flights with the goggles must be made, according to the report. Although the military is by far the greatest consumer and user of the goggles, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has done the only such studies to date. The report also criticizes the Marine Corps for failing to act on 2-year-old recommendations calling for helicopter anti-collision lights that work with the goggles. Because current lighting systems are designed for the naked eye, they are too bright for the sensitive goggles and must be dimmed or switched off. This contributed to the crash, and new lighting systems should be obtained to avoid future accidents, Niemyer wrote.

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Binocularlike in appearance, the goggles provide green video images of night landscapes by amplifying moonlight and starlight thousands of times, enabling pilots to fly stealthily in darkness without using telltale radar, spotlights or flares. But the goggles come with severe drawbacks: impaired depth perception, lack of peripheral vision, 20/50 to 20/100 eyesight (too poor to qualify even for a driver's license) and a tendency to be blinded in cloudy weather. The type of goggles most commonly used by the military are obsolete and jury-rigged devices designed for ground troops and truck drivers, never fully tested nor intended for flight. Borrowed from ground units, they must be cut apart with metal shears, then fitted to flight helmets with Velcro adhesive and surgical tubing. Internal Army memos say new goggles designed specifically for pilots -- available since 1983 and now in limited use -- are vitally needed in greater numbers. The old goggles, one memo says, have caused "the tragic and unnecessary loss of human life as well as the destruction of tens of millions of dollars of high technology assets." The older goggles were in use during the Oct. 25 midair collision. This type of goggle will not be replaced fully until 1997. The fatal accident in Arizona was one in a long series of crashes in which Army, Marine or Air Force helicopters have collided with mountains, trees, wires or one another while pilots wore night-vision goggles. The Register reported in December that 134 servicemen had died and 62 helicopters had been destroyed in night-vision goggle accidents in the past 10 years, mostly involving the obsolete trucker goggles. Since that report, the congressional investigation has begun, while the night-vision goggle crash toll has increased to 150 deaths and 69 helicopters destroyed. Judy Vick of Columbia, Tenn., whose stepson, Cpl. James D. Vick II, 21, was one of the 10 killed in the Arizona crash, received an advance copy of Niemyer's report and supplied it to the Register. The report, called a Manual of the Judge Advocate General Investigation, is dated Dec. 15 but has not been made public beyond the crash victims' relatives. It was approved in February by Maj. Gen. D.E.P. Miller, commanding general of the Marine Aircraft Wing at the El Toro and Tustin air stations and Camp Pendleton. He said he agrees with the report's findings and recommendations, particularly regarding the need for lights to help goggle-wearing pilots spot one another. "There (are) some things we don't have that we need," he said. "Now the pressure's on." The report is being reviewed by officials at various Marine commands and has not yet been sent to the Pentagon. No action has been taken on the safety recommendations so far. A separate, parallel safety investigation that reached similar conclusions is also incomplete, officials said. "Upon receipt (of the reports), appropriate action will be taken on the recommendations," said Maj. Ron Stokes, Marine spokesman at the Pentagon. "I hope something is done. What we want to do is make sure this doesn't happen to someone else's son," Judy Vick said. "Why are they flying with these goggles if it isn't safe? It seems like a lot of young military people are dying needlessly." Douglas Vick, Cpl. Vick's father, still cannot bring himself to read the report. He cries every day for the son he can't stop missing, he said. The irony, he said, is that the Marine Corps had been so good for his son. "The last time he visited, no one could believe it was him. He came off the plane, he had muscles, he was big, broad in the shoulders. I had to look twice. He went in a boy, but he came home a man. And it was such a good visit, so good. "I had never heard of night-vision goggles before. I had no idea. ... All of a sudden, just zap. He's gone. "I can't describe the hurt." Niemyer's report vividly recreates the destruction at the scene of the crash, where flaming wreckage tumbled to the stark desert floor, scattering bodies and exploding ammunition aboard the Sea Knight helicopter. Fifty-caliber rounds from the Sea Knight kept "cooking off" in the flaming wreckage, firing in all directions and keeping firefighters and rescuers at bay for about 12 hours after the 7:40 p.m. crash. The Huey, whose six-man crew included Vick, was acting as an air-traffic control center for more than a dozen helicopters flying on night maneuvers out of the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station. The Sea Knight was the lead chopper in a formation of four that had just completed a simulated troop drop. The maneuvers were the last of six weeks of training at the Yuma Marine Corps Air Station -- the Marine helicopter pilot's version of "Top Gun" -- and all that remained was graduation. The commander aboard the Huey had just radioed the call sign "Jersey," which meant the exercise was over and all aircraft could return to base. As the Huey headed back to Yuma, its flight path put it directly into the moon, which was full and low on the horizon. This caused the goggle images to be
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"washed out" -- much like a driver's vision is impaired when driving toward a late afternoon sun. Meanwhile, the lead CH-46 had pulled too far ahead of its three companion choppers and was barely visible because its anti-collision lights were switched off, so as not to blind goggle-wearing pilots to the rear of the formation. Only the last CH-46 in line kept its anti-collision lights on. A video recreation of the accident showed that the three trailing CH-46s were easy to see, but that the lead Sea Knight might not have been visible to the Huey crew. The Huey's anti-collision light was on and should have been a brilliant beacon to the approaching CH-46s. But several witnesses aboard the other helicopters in the formation said they saw only a light and could not tell it was a helicopter. Others realized the Huey was there, but saw no collision course. "It looked as though the Huey might pass behind the lead CH-46. However, it was hard to tell depth perception due to the natural limitations of night-vision goggles," said one witness, Capt. M.L. Abbott, in a sworn statement attached to Niemyer's report. Within days of the accident, McCloskey wrote the military and asked it to suspend flying with the older truck-driver goggles and to improve training and safety with the newer pilot goggles, which are improved but share many of the same shortcomings. A hearing was held last month in Washington and more will be scheduled soon, McCloskey said. Meanwhile, Rep. Nicholas Mavroules, D-Mass., chairman of the House Armed Services investigation subcommittee, which is conducting the investigation, has written new Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, asking him to make goggle safety problems a top priority in order to avoid more fatal crashes. Cheney has not responded yet. Illustration ILLUSTRATION; Caption: (illustration showing a midair collision while night-vision goggles were in use); Credit: Michelle Wise:Jeff Goertzen:Paul Carbo Copyright Orange County Register Apr 23, 1989

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