BUCHAREST, Romania –
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the 1st Infantry Division arrived at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, safely Aug. 5 after an emergency landing in downtown Bucharest a few days earlier. If not for the helicopter’s crew, the aviation brigade’s maintenance team and the quick reactionary time and expert technical knowledge from Logistics Assistance Representative Cliff Barnes, things could have been much worst. In fact, the Black Hawk could still be sitting on the streets of Bucharest.
Barnes, a U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command LAR assigned to the 405th Army Field Support Brigade and stationed in Illesheim, Germany, arrived at the scene just hours after the emergency landing occurred.
The Black Hawk crew, while conducting rehearsals for Romanian Air Force Day, initiated a precautionary landing in the city center of Bucharest after suffering a major mechanical problem in flight. The aircraft also sustained additional damage during the landing – to include damage to two of its rotor blades – likely caused by flying debris on the ground. But by all accounts from people on the scene, many who filmed the incident with their personal smart devices, the helicopter crew made a miraculous landing – so much so many people cheered when the helicopter landed safely.
And Barnes’ support was equally cheer worthy.
Once notified, he immediately traveled from Germany where he is based and arrived in Bucharest a few hours later. Sought out for their comprehensive knowledge and highly-technical expertise when it comes to Army aviation maintenance, Barnes and AMCOM LARs like him – 18 spread across Europe – support U.S. Army Europe and Africa readiness.
Upon arriving in Bucharest, Barnes immediately went to work.
“He inspected the aircraft with the pilots and mechanics on the ground. They looked at all the parts, and Cliff (Barnes) pinpointed what needed to be replaced,” said David Field, the AMC senior command representative for AMCOM in Europe. “They ended up replacing the whole input module, including the flange. That’s the component that allows the power from the engine to go into the transmission and then to the rotor system. It’s like a freewheeling clutch. They also replaced an accessory gear box because they wanted it as part of the safety investigation.”
Not only was Barnes there for the disassembly of the aircraft, helping the 1st ID’s aviation mechanics, but he correctly identified exactly what parts needed to be replaced and he helped the safety investigation team from USAREUR-AF and the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade who were sent there to support.
“He was able to help them download the data off of the aircraft, whereas normally they would have to send the equipment back to the U.S. to be downloaded. He was able to help them download and read all the data,” said Field.
By the next morning, the aircraft was towed eight miles to Bucharest International Airport where the safety investigation team completed their investigation and the maintenance was accomplished. Ground runs and 30-minute hover test were completed first, and the Black Hawk was cleared to fly and return to Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base – overall, a successful recovery mission by and large thanks to Barnes and the 405th AFSB’s vital LAR readiness support mission.
“I’ve done this type of thing before. We had an incident in Bulgaria a couple years ago. It’s my job and what I do,” said Barnes. “In this job as a LAR, I’ve deployed to Afghanistan four times and Iraq three times, and now I’ve been in Europe since 2016. It makes me feel like what I do makes a difference.”
“We have a combination of AMCOM aviation and missile LARs, supporting all the rotary winged aircraft, the unmanned aircraft, and all the missile systems, said Field. “The LARs are the subject matter experts on all this equipment. Not only do they have the technical knowledge, they have the capability to reach back to the program managers and equipment manufactures to get parts and technical data needed to enable the Soldiers to make repairs in the field.”
When there are readiness issues, the LARs are able to get the equipment back up and operational, said Field.
“They are forward. They go on every exercise and every mission,” Field said. “Initially when COVID-19 hit and everything was shut down, they were at home but right away – within a month – they were back in the hangars and the motor pools because that’s the only way they can be effective – when they’re right there with the Soldiers on the equipment.”
LARs are Army civilians serving in motor pools, hangars, maintenance shops and offices around the world. Highly trained, they bring more than two dozen specialty skills to Army equipment readiness requirements. They are part of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command’s global network of Army Field Support Brigades and are linked to every echelon of the Army in the field. The 405th AFSB has several LARs with multiple specialties assigned across Europe.
The 405th AFSB is assigned to ASC and under the operational control of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, USAREUR-AF. The brigade is headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and provides materiel enterprise support to U.S. Forces throughout Europe and Africa – providing theater sustainment logistics; synchronizing acquisition, logistics and technology; and leveraging U.S. Army Materiel Command’s materiel enterprise to support joint forces. For more information on the 405th AFSB, visit the official website at www.afsbeurope.army.mil and the official Facebook site at www.facebook.com/405thAFSB.