Federal report on 2021 helicopter crash in Mendon recommends ways to improve training

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A federal report says fulfilling training requirements and better access to flight simulators can help to prevent crashes similar to the 2021 fatal helicopter crash in Mendon. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke about the report on the crash at a Wednesday conference.

Three local Army National Guard members died in the crash during a training exercise in January 2021. The Black Hawk helicopter landed with its nose down in a field after the crew rehearsed an emergency maneuver involving the flight controls during a drill. The field was off West Bloomfield Road southeast of Mendon Ponds Park.

Schumer said the report recommended three steps to prevent future crashes. First, the report calls for all pilots to fulfill training hours. Second, it calls for a database on incidents of crashes. Third, the report calls for more use of flight simulators, along with more maintenance crews for aircraft used for training. The report says better maintaining training aircraft will allow fliers to train more frequently.

Family members of the Mendon crash victims also joined the conference. All three of the victims served in Afghanistan.

Steve Skoda, 54 of Rochester, served in the Army for 35 years and was an experienced flight instructor. Daniel Prial, 30 of Rochester, was an Army captain who graduated from West Point Academy. Christian Koch, 39 of Honeoye Falls, served the National Guard for 20 years and was a pilot with the New York State Police aviation unit.

The New York Army National Guard said crew error was the cause of the crash. Because of the crash, the specific maneuver that the National Guard members used is being taught only on flight simulators.

More than two years after the Mendon crash, nine soldiers were killed on March 29 when two Army Black Hawk helicopters crashed during a training exercise in Kentucky.