Interim report released about helicopter crash at Idaho’s Moose Fire

N388RZ Boeing CH-47D at Penticton Airport
N388RA Boeing CH-47D preparing to take off at Penticton Airport in British Columbia July 16, 2022. Image from VMC Aviation Videos.

The US Forest Service has released a brief initial report about the July 21 crash of the Boeing CH-47D helicopter in the Salmon River while working on the Moose Fire 20 air miles northwest of Salmon, Idaho. The two pilots were killed.

Below is the complete text of the narrative section of the document which was dated July 22, 2022, but was not posted on the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned site until today around noon.

On Thursday, July 20, a call when needed CH-47D Series Chinook Helicopter crashed into the Salmon River, adjacent to the Indianola Work Center approximately 11 miles west of North Fork, Idaho on the Moose Fire. The aircraft sustained severe damage, the pilots were extracted and transported to hospitals but both sustained fatal injuries. The NTSB has been notified and will be conducting an accident investigation. The USDA Forest Service has assigned a learning review team.

The pilots, the only personnel on board, were Thomas Hayes, 41, of Post Falls, Idaho, and Jared Bird, 36, of Anchorage, Alaska.

The helicopter was operated by Anchorage-based ROTAK Helicopter Services.

The FAA confirms that the registration number of the helicopter is N388RA, which is one of two CH-47D ships ROTAK recently purchased from Columbia Helicopters.

area where the CH-47D crashed July 21, 2022
The general area where the CH-47D crashed July 21, 2022. Google Earth. The red shading represents an area burned in the Moose Fire.

There are unconfirmed reports that a hotshot crew was nearby when it crashed and they went into the Salmon River and extricated the pilots in an attempt to save them.

The last time Flight Aware tracked N388FA was at 3:02 p.m. MDT July 21. Because of the rugged terrain, it first showed it north of the Salmon Airport. Then it went northwest generally toward the Moose Fire and lost tracking at 3:12 p.m., minutes before it reached the river.

As an example of the terrain here is a photo of the Comet Fire I took a few years ago from Highway 93 just east of the current Moose Fire, 13 air miles north of Salmon, ID. The Salmon River is in the foreground.

Comet Fire, July 28, 2016
Comet Fire, July 28, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The video below was shot at Penticton Airport in British Columbia July 16, 2022 when it stopped for fuel en route from Alaska to Idaho.

The GoFundMe fundraisers for the two pilots can be found through the following links:

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

7 thoughts on “Interim report released about helicopter crash at Idaho’s Moose Fire”

  1. I’m sorry to hear of the two pilots
    lives that were lost. We never know or day or hour, when God, will call us home. They loved
    their job, and were heroes that day and always will be.
    May God bless each of their families and friends, as they move forward with their lives.
    When God, closes a door, he opens a window! He’s so
    Amazing, especially at times like this and always! Prayers to all that helped to rescue them and
    Get them to safety, regardless of the outcome. Great team effort had by all!

  2. It is a shame that those lives were lost. Too bad we have to learn from the losses of others.

    I couple of flat-lander pilots flew into Kellogg one fine summer day and asked the FBO/SLP for mountain flying lessons. He had us follow him into a gravel-bar strip on the Coldwater to drop off some loggers. We managed to get stopped before going into the river. He has to overfly to run the elk off. It was rough because the plowed area next to the strip was mowed instead of the strip. Maybe that saved us. We stayed at the Idaho Game and Fish camp a couple of days by some guys tagging elk up to the north. They broke a leaf spring in their Willys, and we decided to fly them into Pendleton to get the replacement part, so we had a big Idaho boy and his part to carry. We got off by rolling over the weeds and the bank with the stall horn squawking, and slow-flighted just above the water until we could finally gain altitude. The PIC didn’t do a new weight and balance and takeoff-run calc; he just flew the pattern alone for one pass and loaded up. Lucky we had not fueled up in Pendleton. The lesson, of course, is that in gets hot in those canyons very quickly in those mountains, so density altitude can change quickly after sunup and we did a 1000hrs TO.

    I don’t know about helicopters, but I lost a friend in one overflying the Lewis and Clark Trail, and I believe it was last year (?) that some Hotshots landed one hard on a fire because they were overloaded. I tell this hangar-tale a lot because it illustrates our mistakes. I put my homebuilt STOL on it’s nose a few years ago, and I’ve hung up my ticket and sold the airplanes. Too old to have good sense. Decades ago I did a wheel’s-partially down (complete failure, luckily, just before the nose dug in) in a T-34, but that was Beechcraft’s fault. Luckily, I had Col. Bob Doty with me, a multi-thousand hour pilot that flew Gooney-Birds from Ascension to N. Africa in The War, and just about everything else in the AF inventory.

  3. To the Pilots loved ones and the family I am so sorry. RIP

    Bless the Shot crew who dropped everything to help.

    I lost my father to a plane crash in his own single engine 206-Cessna. This was right before the FAA put the large orange balls on the powerlines after many many deaths of pilots. In 1978, flying down the flatiron’s in Boulder my dads plane hit a powerline and it clipped his wings. I was 16 months old, I was to fly with my dad that day but my mom said no. His love for flying was second to none.

    Lets look at airbags for aircraft and helicopters!!

    They have parachutes for small airplanes.

    I just had the idea, just like cars would this help? It may have saved my dads life. Just thinking outside the Box or Ship..

    1. I was 11 months old when my co-pilot father died in a commercial airplane crash in Alaska June 14, 1960.

      It will always hit hard when i am aware of loss of life in wings of the air, whatever make.

      I live in Salmon ID and this crash has hit our community hard. My husband has been a firefighter for 40 years and we grieve for Jared and Tom’s families. May they find peace in the midst of this storm.

    2. I flew on CH-46’s in the Marine Corps. I think the problem with tandem rotor is the rotor blades tend to come crashing through the airframe and chew up the crew. I don’t know if they remove the armor plating that might serve as some protection for pilots due to weight. Still makes me queasy seeing this crash. Thoughts and prayers for the families… Such a trajedy…


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