PAVE LOW Pilot #270
11 March 1970 - 23 November 2003
Maj. Steven Plumhoff, 33, formerly of Neshanic Station, NJ, was born on 11 March 1970 in Somerville, NJ, and the son of German immigrants was killed Nov 23rd, 2003, when his MH-53M PAVE LOW helicopter he was piloting crashed near Baghram, Afghanistan. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery located in Section 60, Site 1821.
Steve graduated from Somerville High School in 1988 and had dreams of either writing fiction or flying helicopters. He opted for helicopters after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy with the class of 1992. Steve began his pilot training at the old Reese Air Force Base near Lubbock, TX, and served at Hill Air Force Base, UT, before his first assignment at Kirtland AFB, NM, in 1995, for further training. After Kirtland, he served in the Air Force's elite Special Operations Branch, first at Osan Air Base, South Korea, and later at RAF Mildenhall, England. Steve was assigned to the 58th Operations Support Squadron when he deployed to combat.
Even in the service's elite group, colleagues said Plumhoff stood out. He kept himself in tip-top physical shape and strived to know something about almost everything. He was a top PAVE LOW pilot, computer guru, and sports trivia master. He also loved hockey and music. Details mattered to him. No one could match the shine of his combat boots - it was his trademark. For being so extraordinary, Plumhoff remained well-liked, and respected, by everyone around him. But it was his ability to do low night flights to deploy special operations troops which brought him respect from his peers. Steven's favorite saying was "No worries, it's all good."
He worked his way up through Air Force duties and ranks, starting as a PAVE LOW co-pilot and becoming a group safety officer, one of the most important duties in preventing accidents. In 1999, as NATO aircraft bombed Serbia to force Serb troops out of Kosovo, Plumhoff helped organize search-and-rescue operations that saved two U.S. pilots, including one from a downed F-117A stealth fighter jet from Holloman AFB, NM. In 2001, he returned to Kirtland AFB. Steven was deployed from Kirtland in mid-October on a 60-day mission overseas and was to return home by Christmas.
On 23 November 2003, Steve was participating in combat operations for Operation MOUNTAIN RESOLVE when it crashed nine miles east of Bagram Air Base.
A compressor stall in one of the two engines left the PAVE LOW with one engine operating and too much weight to carry in the thin mountain air. After the crew unsuccessfully attempted to jettison the auxiliary fuel tanks, the second engine stalled while attempting to land. With all power lost, the helicopter fell from an altitude of about 200 feet onto an uneven river bank, rolled over and burst into flames. Eight people somehow managed to survive. Three other crew members and one team member was killed in the crash.
Major Plumhoff is survived by his wife, Yvette, and son Gavin.