Former UNM graduate and Rio Rancho teacher Maj. Phyllis Pelky (left) was killed with Master Sgt. Gregory T. Kuhse (right) in the crash of a British helicopter in Afghanistan in October 2015. A just-released report from the UK’s Military Aviation Authority said the helicopter pilots failed to see a hovering security balloon as the helicopter was preparing to land. (Source: U.S. Air Force)

Former UNM graduate and Rio Rancho teacher Maj. Phyllis Pelky (left) was killed with Master Sgt. Gregory T. Kuhse (right) in the crash of a British helicopter in Afghanistan in October 2015. A just-released report from the UK’s Military Aviation Authority said the helicopter pilots failed to see a hovering security balloon as the helicopter was preparing to land. (Source: U.S. Air Force)

The cause of an October 2015 British helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed Air Force Maj. Phyllis Pelky, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico and Master Sgt. Gregory T. Kuhse, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has been attributed in part to “a loss of situational awareness” by the two pilots.

Jane’s Defence Weekly has just published the findings summarizing a newly released report from the United Kingdom’s Military Aviation Authority.

Pelky, 45, was a former German and humanities teacher at Rio Rancho High School. She had been serving as an aide-de-camp to the superintendent of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and was assigned to the Academy’s headquarters staff.

Kuhse, 38, was an information resources manager and manpower analyst who had more than 19 years of service in the Air Force and was assigned to the 3rd Manpower Requirements Squadron at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

According to the report, the two pilots and rear crewman were looking to the left after losing site of their lead aircraft as they were preparing to land. The report indicates the Royal Air Force Puma HC2 helicopter, which is a four-bladed, twin-engine utility and transport helicopter, experienced “catastrophic failure” when it struck a security balloon tethered to the ground over Camp Resolute Support near Kabul.

The helicopter’s tail rotor struck the tether as it descended toward that camp, which is the headquarters for NATO’s training and support mission. The crash killed five people on the aircraft, including Pelky and Kuhse. Four others suffered injuries but survived.

Born in Evergreen Park, Ill., Pelky attended the University of New Mexico, where she received a bachelor’s degree in education and then taught at Rio Rancho High School. The 9/11 terrorist attacks motivated her to enroll in Officer Training School, said Ray Bowden, Air Force Academy spokesman. Upon completion, she was commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned to the Equal Opportunity Office at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

Pelky was buried at Academy Cemetery. Survivors include her husband, Dave Pelky, sons Zach and Alex, and six siblings.

Born in Kalamazoo, Mich., Kuhse was a 1995 graduate of Comstock High School and holds the Comstock Northeast Middle School 800-meter track run time record of 2:13-7, according to his obituary. He graduated from the Community College of the Air Force with an associate degree in both information resources management and management engineering technology.

Kuhse is survived by his wife, Master Sgt. Torri Kuhse; daughters Madeline Mechler, 20, and Eliana Kuhse, 12; sons Tristan Carpenter, 7, and Caleb Carpenter, 5; his mother, Linda Kuhse, of Charlotte; siblings Michael (Erin) Kuhse, of Augusta, Patricia Spencer, of Rockford, and Brian Spencer, of Cedar Springs; and his maternal grandmother, Betty Jacoby, of Battle Creek.

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