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Flying was a lifelong dream for Army pilot

December 17, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

McCONNELSBURG - Jonathan Helman wanted to fly. His lifelong dream cost him his life last week when the U.S. Army helicopter he was co-piloting crashed in the hills of central Honduras.

The four other crew members aboard also died when the Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a routine night training exercise.

Helman, 30, an Army warrant officer, grew up in McConnellsburg. He joined the Air Force in 1991 after graduating from McConnellsburg High School.

He stayed in the Air Force for 10 years, reached the rank of staff sergeant and was a flight engineer on Huey helicopters, said Jonathan Helman's brother, Joseph Helman, 35.

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He switched to the Army so he could fly, Joseph Helman said. Enlisting with the rank of warrant officer, Jonathan Helman took Army flight training and flew Black Hawks, his brother said.

He leaves a wife, Stacey Clipinger Helman, and an 11-year-old son.

Jonathan Helman and Stacey both went to McConnellsburg High School, said Jonathan's mother, Clara Helman.

They lived at Fort Rucker, Ala. He was serving a one-year tour of duty in Honduras, Joseph Helman said.

"He earned two safety awards since July," Joseph Helman said.

"He was supposed to come home for Christmas," said his brother, Anthony, 34. "They already had their plane tickets."

Joseph Helman has been in the Air Force for 16 years, Anthony Helman served for four years. "We're an Air Force family," Joseph Helman said.

The Army has not said when it would send Jonathan's body home, his mother said. "They haven't given us any details," she said.

Howard Sipes Funeral Home in McConnellsburg is in charge of arrangements. Jason Shives, supervisor at the funeral home, said he didn't know when the body would be sent back for burial. He said he expected it to be later this week.

Jonathan Helman will be buried with military honors in Union Cemetery in McConnellsburg, his mother said.

"He was always driven," Joseph Helman said. "He did what he set out to do, fly helicopters.

"He loved the (Pittsburgh) Steelers and he loved to play the guitar," Anthony said. "He taught himself."

The crash occurred about 85 miles north of the Honduras capital of Tegucigalpa, according to the Associated Press. It crashed around 9 p.m. Dec. 11. The helicopter has flown from Soto Cana Air Force Base in Palmerola, Honduras.

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