The Wikipedia entry about it says,

The operation encountered many obstacles and was eventually aborted. Eight helicopters were sent to the first staging area, Desert One, but only five arrived in operational condition.[3] One encountered hydraulic problems, another got caught in a cloud of very fine sand, and the last one showed signs of a cracked rotor blade. During planning it was decided that the mission would be aborted if fewer than six helicopters remained, despite only four being absolutely necessary.[3] In a move that is still discussed in military circles, the field commanders advised mission abort, which President Carter accepted and confirmed.[4]

As the U.S. force prepared to leave, one of the helicopters crashed into a transport aircraft which contained both servicemen and jet fuel. The resulting fire destroyed both aircraft and killed eight servicemen.[3] Operation Eagle Claw was one of Delta Force's first missions.[5][Note 1]

It also says,

While en route, Bluebeard 6 was grounded and abandoned in the desert when its pilots interpreted a sensor indication as a cracked rotor blade. Its crew was picked up by Bluebeard 8. The remaining helicopters ran into an unexpected weather phenomenon known as a haboob[14] (fine particles of sand suspended to a milky consistency in the air following dissipation of a thunderstorm). Bluebeard 5 flew into the haboob, but abandoned the mission and returned to the Nimitz when erratic flight instrumentation (altitude indicator) made flying without visual reference points impossible.

Why did Bluebeard 6's rotor crack? Was it caused by bad weather or unknown mechanical failure or something else?

Did the haboob cause any failures of the helicopters?


  • 3
    I don't think you're going to get a better answer than the one presented by the wikipedia page. These appear to have been three unrelated mechanical failures, the hydraulics failure and the cracked rotor are things that happen in helicopters and the "haboob" is a known hazard of the particular terrain.
    – Steve Bird
    Nov 14, 2016 at 7:31
  • 1
    @MarkC.Wallace I am not just questioning the existing narrative. I am asking for more information. "Why did the rotor of the Bluebeard crack?" The question clearly asks for more information which I assume is available in the officially released report. Nov 14, 2016 at 13:43
  • Fair point. I still doubt that you'll get any more information. My fuel pump failed recently- I could ask the mechanic why it failed, but I suspect he would shrug and say "because it was time", or "these things happen".
    – MCW
    Nov 14, 2016 at 13:52
  • You could also scope out for an answer. The way I remember it, the simultaneous failures at the time were put down to US equipment not being designed to operate in that kind of desert environment. This was the 1970's and most US military doctrine and experience involved fighting in wetter environments like Europe or perhaps Korea.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 14, 2016 at 14:22
  • @T.E.D. Nice. You could write it as an answer. Nov 14, 2016 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


Here are a few pages that have more detail. The official report is worth a look.

The first one lists several mistakes, including:

  • The lack of any overall review of the plan
  • The requirement that all the US armed services should have a "piece of the action", which led to helicopters not being flown by crews who were familiar with them, who might well have coped better with problems.
  • The use of RH-53D helicopters, which had a poor reliability record, because they "looked right" on a carrier, to try to avoid giving the Iranian navy any clues that something odd was going on.

The haboob did not apparently cause any failures of the helicopters, but it made them disperse to avoid collisions, which slowed everything down, and the timescale was already too tight in various places. Hurrying is a great way to make other things go wrong.

  • 1
    I am tempted to offer an answer due to flying helicopters for a lot of years, and the hard fact is that helicopters require a lot of maintenance man hours per flight hour ... they break a lot. But this answer meets the "good enough" standard. Nov 14, 2016 at 16:23
  • @KorvinStarmast - Flight sim industry here. The joke definition I typically hear from pilots/maintenance techs is: "Helicopter: (n) 10,000 moving parts flying in close formation."
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 15, 2016 at 19:25

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