US Navy MH-60S Knighthawk crashes in California

A US Navy-operated Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk, assigned to the Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon Helicopter Search and Rescue (SAR) Team ‘Longhorns’, crashed near Mount Hogue, California, on July 16.

The helicopter, using the callsign ‘Longhorn 02’, was carrying out SAR operations in the Mount Hogue area when the incident occurred at approximately 1700hrs (local time). It was supporting Mono County SAR efforts to locate a lost hiker in the rugged high-altitude terrain of the National Forest, south of Boundary Peak, which is 120 miles south of NAS Fallon.

NAS Fallon SAR Team MH-60S in flight [US Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfoe]
US Navy-operated Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk - BuNo 165760 ‘7H-02’ callsign ‘Longhorn 02’ - assigned to the NAS Fallon Helicopter SAR Team ‘Longhorns’ at NAS Fallon, California, practises confined area mountain landings during SAR training on April 8, 2021, near Fallon. This is believed to be the helicopter that crashed on July 16, 2021. US Navy/Chief Petty Officer Mass Communications Specialist Shannon Renfroe

All four crew members survived the crash without injury and have been safely recovered. The aircrew comprised four personnel – a pilot, co-pilot and two crewmen. The crash site was at 11,700ft above sea level, in very rugged terrain. The crew were able to communicate following the impact, but a follow-on helicopter mission launched that evening from NAS Fallon was unable to retrieve them. An overnight kit was dropped to the survivors, who spent the night on the mountain.

The following morning, an additional MH-60S – callsign ‘Longhorn 01’ – launched from NAS Fallon and provided on-scene coordination but could not effect a rescue. Instead, a Boeing CH-47 Chinook from Mather Air Force Base (AFB), California, was called in to support because of its superior high-altitude performance characteristics.

It dropped off a ground SAR team that met up with the survivors, while the CH-47 returned to Mammoth Lakes for fuel. The Chinook returned to the scene and the crew of ‘Longhorn 02’ were safely recovered by the heavy-lift tactical transport helicopter at approximately 1400hrs local time on July 17.

The cause of the MH-60S crash is currently unknown. The US Navy will now conduct a mishap investigation, with support from the Naval Safety Center. Following the on-site investigation, the aircraft will be removed from its current position on US Forest Service land. While the serial has not been confirmed, BuNo 165760 ‘7H-02’ has been using the callsign ‘Longhorn 02’ for some years and was still current as such as of April 2021, meaning it is most likely the example that was involved in this attrition event.