Search and Rescue (SAR) Helicopter Hard Landing

United States Embassy Niamey



Search and Rescue (SAR) Helicopter Hard Landing

A U.S. civilian-owned, civilian-operated helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing on the outskirts of Niamey, Niger on May 12, 2015.  The Sikorsky S-61 helicopter suffered damage during the hard landing in a dry riverbed south of the Niger River, approximately 20km southeast of Niamey Diori Hamani International Airport.  The six U.S. civilian personnel on-board the helicopter were not injured and have safely returned to Niamey with the assistance of U.S. Embassy and Government of Niger.  No damage to property or local personnel was reported.

An effort to recover the helicopter, which is not able to fly as a result of the damage incurred during landing, has commenced.  An estimate does not yet exist as to how long the recovery effort will take.  During the first 24 hours, Niger Gendarmerie and contracted security personnel supported the contractor with manpower to secure the helicopter on-site.

The helicopter is operated in support of a U.S. government contract, issued by U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), to provide a capability to recover both U.S. and host nation personnel from a remote location and to provide emergency medical care. 

AAR Airlift, the personnel-recovery contractor, has assessed the damage to its helicopter and believes the airframe can be repaired and returned to operational status.

AAR Airlift has arranged for security services at the helicopter’s location.  Host-nation security officials are present alongside AAR’s contracted company.  The recovery effort to transport the helicopter back to the airport is still being planned.  AAR Airlift has an expert arriving to Niamey today to assist in executing the recovery.

U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) implemented a Search and Rescue (SAR) capability based in Niamey, Niger starting in January 2015.  The contracted SAR company provides a 24-hour / 7-day alert posture to cover a 500 nautical mile radius, with point-of-isolation and/or injury pick-up capability.  The SAR contractor, via coordination with USAFRICOM, may respond to DoD, U.S. Embassy, and Government of Niger requests for support.