DENVER — An Army investigation blames the pilots of an Apache helicopter for a crash landing during a training mission in the Colorado mountains last year that left one of them seriously injured.
The report of the investigation says the two pilots put themselves and the helicopter in a situation where they had little or no margin for error, and they didn't react properly to audible warnings and other indications that the helicopter was flying beyond its limits.
The Associated Press obtained the report this week through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The report also faults an Army training program for mishandling the rescue, which took so long that the seriously injured pilot's condition became critical before he could be airlifted to a hospital in Colorado Springs.
That pilot suffered two broken legs, a broken nose and internal injuries, and he wasn't airlifted from the site for more than 4 1/2 hours because of radio problems and difficulties locating aircraft and equipment capable of retrieving him.
The other pilot was quickly released after being treated.
Neither pilot's name was released, nor were other details.
Spokesman Paul Boyce at the Army Forces Command said Tuesday that the Army "enhanced" its safety and emergency response procedures after the incident, but he offered no specifics.
The pilots from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., were attempting to touch down at a landing site about 12,200 feet above sea level during a training mission when their AH-64 helicopter crash landed at 1 a.m. June 30.
The exact location of the site hasn't been released, but it was west of the Fort Carson Army post outside Colorado Springs.
The report says debris from the helicopter was scattered for about 1,000 feet down the side of a ridge. The Army has not said how badly the aircraft was damaged.
The training mission was part the Army's High Altitude Mountain Environment Training Strategy program, which trains helicopter pilots for flying in Afghanistan. Flying at high elevation can be tricky because engines can't generate as much power in the oxygen-poor air, and because the thin air affects aircraft handling.
The report is critical of the program's planning, saying radios and emergency transponders aboard the crashed helicopter either worked poorly or didn't work at all. Both pilots contacted other pilots with their cell phones, the report says.
The report also criticizes the overall training program, saying it "focuses almost exclusively" on landing at high elevations even though helicopters have little need to do that in Afghanistan.
The program is modeled on the Colorado Army National Guard's High-Altitude Aviation Training but is separate from it.