YK-16 Suffers Catastrophic Blade Failure
APRIL 11, 1969;  BUNO 153332
Crew of YK-16:
Barnes, Laurie Eugene, 1stLt. USMCR
Bosbery, Donald Charles, 1stLt. USMCR
Meeks, Charles Henry III, Sgt. USMC
Barnhart, Beverly Lee, SSgt. USMC
(Crew Chief)

On 11 April 1969, YK-16 was the second aircraft in a flight of two conducting resupply missions.  The accident resulted from the failure of one of the three forward rotor blades due to metal fatigue.  When the one blade failed it produced  enormous unbalanced load conditions  on the forward rotor head and forward transmission causing them to be literally torn from the aircraft.  During this disintegration process, some of the debris impacted the aft rotor system and pylon and it too was torn from the helicopter resulting in the catastrophic crash.

The aft pylon and the main potion of the fuselage, with is contents, fell to earth in the same general location and were retrieved by recovery forces of the squadron in short order.  The forward transmission and rotor head assembly were located a couple of days latter by a Grunt patrol.  The squadron requested that EOD (Explosive Ordnance Demolition) experts be sent to "check out" the site for booby traps before the squadron recovery personnel were sent in to retrieve the final portions of the  CH-46.  Recovery of the forward rotor head and transmission would be instrumental in determining why the failures had occurred.  Somehow this message got slightly garbled as it made its way to III MAF and then back down to a young Marine Corporal on Hill 37.  The Corporal did as he was instructed.  He went out to the site of the forward transmission and rotor head, and made sure it wasn't booby trapped by putting 30 pounds of C-4 on the assembly and setting it off.  Needless to say, it didn't look like a transmission and rotor head assembly by the time it got back to the squadron and of little value to the Squadron Safety Officer, 1stLt. Larry "Slick" Britton, who was conducting the aircraft crash investigation.  The Corporal from Hill 37 was brought to Marble Mountain so he could see an intact assembly.  He was queried as to the differences between the one at Marble Mountain and the one he "d-booby trapped".


Lt.Col. Bianchino remembers, "The entire crew  were splendid Marines.  Lt. Barnes had recently been designated an aircraft commander and Lt. Bosbery was soon to have been designated one also.  Sgt. Meeks was respected for his functions within the Operations section and SSgt. Barnhart for his years of service to the Corps and knowledge within the Maintenance Section of the squadron".

Lt.Col. Larry "Slick" Britton recalls, "In 1970 or 1971 a squadron at New River, North Carolina lost a CH-46 at Bogue Field, also due to a blade failure very similar to "Stash" Barnes' accident.  After this accident, Boeing Vertol (manufacturer of the CH-46) told the Navy they weren't going to make of fix any more steel blades since they had developed a fiberglass blade that was far superior.  Boeing had developed and proven this new fiberglass blade some three years prior but the Navy wouldn't buy it because it's cost was approximately three times that of a steel blade.  Because of Boeing Vertol's 'gutsy' move, the '46 fleet was equipped with the fiberglass blades.  I wonder how the budget weenie who 'saved' the Navy money by not agreeing to buy the fiberglass blades feels about his frugality?"  I wholly agree with Rich Bianchino's sentiments that the entire crew were 'splendid Marines'.  I would only add that, with the exception of a very few, all the Marines I had the good fortune to serve with were splendid Marines.

Information provided by:
    John L. Lane, former Cpl. USMC
    Richard Bianchino, Lt.Col. USMC(Ret)
    Larry W. "Slick" Britton, Lt.Col. USMC(Ret)
    Willard D. Reeves, Jr., GySgt. USMC(Ret) - Recalls SSgt. Beverly Lee Barnhart
    Leland R. Gilton, Msgt. USMC (Ret) (Photo of SSgt. Barnhart)

LAST UPDATED:  JULY  10,  2003