FORT CAMPBELL, KY – Three pilots assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) received the Broken Wing Award, Dec. 12.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Love, Richard Nielsen and Bryan Young were presented the award from the U.S. Army Safety Center for their skill, judgment and technique during two separate in-flight emergencies.
“The fact that these men were able to successfully recover from such significant aircraft and system failures is a testament to the training and experience of our aviators and crews,” said Col. John Thompson, commander of the 160th SOAR(A).
The Broken Wing Award recognizes aircrew members who demonstrate a high degree of professional skill while recovering from an in-flight failure or malfunction requiring an emergency landing.
Love and Young were able to safely bring down their MH-47 Chinook helicopter after experiencing a complete hydraulic failure as a result of enemy fire.
“I felt a violent shake,” explained Love. “Shortly after that the controls locked up completely.”
Under zero illumination and in extremely restrictive terrain, Love and Young were able to maintain control of the aircraft, select a suitable area and execute an emergency landing.
Nielsen’s award was also presented for his actions in combat. During his flight, Nielsen and crew received significant battle damages to their MH-47 Chinook helicopter from massive amounts of machine gun fire and RPG shrapnel.
“As soon as we came over the saddle, they opened up,” described Nielson, “I saw the guys step out of the tree-line and launch RPG’s directly at the aircraft.”
The damage resulted in a cabin fire along with multiple emergencies to the hydraulic, flight control and engine systems. According to the citation, Nielsen’s composure under pressure and appropriate response to multiple emergencies prevented what could have been a catastrophic accident and loss of life.
“It’s a crew event”, said Nielsen. “We fly by committee and everyone on the aircraft has to know what they are doing.”
Thompson emphasized that the crews saved more than just aircraft.
“When we save a particular aircraft, we therefore save lives’” he explained, and that’s exactly what these men did.”
Both helicopters are still serving in the 160th SOAR fleet today.