Oopsie! Army Drops Missile On New York

By Thomas E. Cheever, P.E.

Somewhere between Fort Drum, New York and Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, New York, a U.S. Army Apache helicopter dropped a 100 pound missile on the New York countryside.


Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Unless you’re familiar with military aviation, you’ve likely never heard of T.F.O.A. And really, that’s a good thing. TFOA is a military acronym for ‘Things Falling Off Aircraft.’ You just can’t make this stuff up. Believe it or not, TFOA is a real program.

All U.S. military services have some form of TFOA program. In the Navy and Marine Corps the program is administered under COMNAVAIRFORINSTR (Commander Naval Air Force Instruction) 4790.2b. The instruction updated in March, begins ‘Occurrences of TFOA have increased substantially throughout Naval Aviation.’ Really???

Sh*t Happens!!

Military aircraft are high speed, highly maneuverable, airplanes or helicopters subjected to g-loads not common to civilian aircraft. Unlike civilian aircraft, military aircraft have ‘things’ like bombs, missiles and fuel tanks hanging off the wings or fuselage.

If flying a combat sortie in Iraq, returning to base with empty pylons is a good thing. If flying your AH-64 Apache to participate in the annual New York Air Show, ah……not so much.

army drops missile

Hellfire? What Hellfire?

Missing is an M36 Captive Flight Training Missile. According to the Army it is not explosive nor motorized and poses no threat to the public.

The 100 pound errant missile was attached to a pylon on the helicopter’s stub wings. Fort Drum spokesperson Julie Halpin said,

“It’s not even something the pilot can drop from the helicopter. It’s just there for weight.”

Officials with Fort Drum’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, part of the 10th Mountain Division assigned to the Northern New York Army post, said the ‘faux’ missile is usually attached to the helicopter to simulate the weight of a Hellfire missile during flight.

Or in this case, to look really cool on the Apache during static display on the ramp at an air show.

Bombs and missiles are not the only things that fall from aircraft. Landing gear doors, cargo doors, stall gates, static discharge wicks, and lights have a nasty habit of departing the aircraft during flight. I hate it when that happens. Per FAA regulations the pilot is required to complete a hazardous material report. The FAA tracks each TFOA report.

Deja Vu

In May 2012, an Apache helicopter flying out of Fort Hood, returned to base without its, you guessed it, M36 Captive Flight Training Missile. It that case  the training missile landed near houses in Killeen, Texas, forcing 100 homes to be evacuated.

Please, Pretty Please, Can We have Our Missile Back?

It’s unclear where along the flight path the training missile was lost. Fort Drum officials are appealing for the public’s help in locating the missile. Anyone with information is asked to call their local police agency or the 10th Mountain Division Operations Center at (315) 772-6324

The missing missile is 64 inches long, 7 inches wide with U.S. Army clearly painted on the side. It simulates the shape and size of the AGM-114 Hellfire fired by Apache helicopters in combat

So if you find the training missile, the Army would really like a call. They’ll be there lickety split to collect their missile. And you’ll have the knowledge and confidence you did a good thing.

On the other hand, simulated or not, sure would be pretty cool having a Hellfire missile hanging from the ceiling of my man cave. I’m just sayin’, but ……….Call me, let’s talk.