A U.S. Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter has crashed in the vicinity of Yuma, Arizona, at approximately 8:45 p.m. (PST) on March 30, killing both the pilots.
Both pilots were conducting a routine training mission as part of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-19, said a statement from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma (MCAS Yuma).
“It is a somber day for the entire Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command as we mourn this tremendous loss. Our thoughts and prayers remain with their families and loved ones during this extremely difficult time,” said Brig. Gen. Roger B. Turner Jr., commanding general, MAGTFTC, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
The statement added that the cause of the crash is currently under investigation and that the names of the deceased will be withheld until 24 hours after next-of-kin notification.
Update (April 1):
The two pilots were identified as Maj. Matthew M. Wiegand and Capt. Travis W. Brannon.
Maj. Matthew M. Wiegand, 34, of Ambler, Pennsylvania, was a pilot assigned to MAWTS-1, Yuma, Arizona. Wiegand joined the Marine Corps in 2008. He held qualifications in the AH-1W Super Cobra and AH-1Z Viper.
Wiegand’s previous duty stations include Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and MCAS Yuma, Ariz.
Wiegand previously deployed in support of a Unit Deployment Program in Okinawa, Japan. He participated in numerous bi-lateral exercises with Joint and Foreign partners. His personal decorations included the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star in lieu of second award.
Capt. Travis W. Brannon, 30, of Nashville, Tennessee, was a pilot assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Brannon was attending Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 2-19.
Brannon’s previous duty stations include Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
Brannon participated in Marine Rotational Force Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. His personal decorations include the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
Bell AH-1Z Viper
The Bell AH-1Z Viper is an American twin-engine attack helicopter, based on the AH-1W SuperCobra, that was developed for the U.S. Marine Corps as part of the H-1 upgrade program.
The AH-1Z features a four-blade, bearingless, composite main rotor system, uprated transmission, and a new target sighting system.