Week in Review : MAJOR EVENTS, IMAGES AND PEOPLE IN ORANGE COUNTY NEWS. : AT THE SCENE : Marine’s Recording Presaged Fatal Crash
A mechanic killed in the crash of a Marine Corps Super Stallion helicopter earlier this month left behind a chilling tape recording in which he complained of a long history of mechanical problems with the aircraft that had pilots and mechanics on edge.
“It’s getting worse,” Sgt. Dulles H. Arnette told an attorney’s investigator just after the June, 1984, crash of a CH-53E Super Stallion near San Clemente Island that killed four Marines. “Everyone’s really edgy, everyone’s looking at things they didn’t look at before . . . and we’ve come across other things that have been wrong.
Arnette, 25, a Super Stallion maintenance crew chief at the Marine Corps’ Tustin base, said that defective parts, faulty construction and mechanical breakdowns had long plagued the military’s largest and most powerful helicopter.
On May 9, Arnette and three other Marines died in the crash of a Super Stallion that was making a landing approach at the Marine Corps’ combat training center at Twentynine Palms, the sixth major crash of the CH-53E in the past two years.
The helicopter, manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft Co. of Stratford, Conn., reportedly has the worst safety record of any helicopter of its kind flown by the Marines. Since 1981, 30 Marines from the Tustin facility alone have died in the Super Stallions or its smaller predecessors, the twin-engined CH-53D Sea Stallion.