The Utah National Guard began recovering two Black Hawk helicopters Wednesday that crashed near Snowbird last week, deploying a massive CH-47 Chinook helicopter to haul them away.
The 25-ton helicopter from the Nevada National Guard flew in to “sling load” the UH-60 Black Hawks — lift them using cables and rigs beneath the aircraft — and transport them to the Heber Valley Airport.
There, the Black Hawks will be loaded onto trailers and taken to the Utah Army Aviation Support Facility in West Jordan.
Each Black Hawk helicopter weighs about 11,500 pounds, less than a quarter the size of the 50,000-pound Chinook helicopter.
The Black Hawks crashed as they attempted to land during a Utah National Guard training exercise on Feb. 22 near the Mineral Basin area, southeast of Snowbird ski resort.
Videos taken by witnesses showed a rotor blade separating from the first Black Hawk and striking the second Black Hawk, according to a Utah National Guard spokesman. The crash caused minor injuries, and both helicopters were damaged.
“Accidents of this nature rarely happen,” Col. Shane Manwaring, commander of the 97th Aviation Troop Command, said in a statement. And, he added, “Our soldiers have worked tirelessly to prepare the aircraft for extraction from the area.”
Manwaring said the National Guard has worked with Snowbird, the U.S. Forest Service, Wasatch County, the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office, Heber City police, Utah Highway Patrol and the Heber Valley Airport to prepare to move the damaged helicopters.
The National Guard warned that nearby residents — particularly in the Heber Valley area — may hear noise from the recovery operations Wednesday afternoon and possibly Thursday morning, depending on weather limitations that may stretch out the extraction process.
People were advised to avoid Mineral Basin and the Heber Valley Airport on Wednesday and Thursday because of safety concerns.
“High-altitude recovery operations are complex by their very nature, especially with the restricted terrain and unpredictable weather patterns in Mineral Basin,” said Lt. Col. Gordon Pedersen, Utah National Guard Director of Aviation and Safety.