|Helicopters aren’t supposed to be there.|
“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” Chris called over the radio as the simulated emergency procedure he was practicing with his students turned into an actual emergency.
|(This training flight is not crashing)|
“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is Lucky123 going down into Texas Field with an engine failure.” Chris radioed to other pilots in the area.
“Copy, sir, can I get your location?” said someone in the control tower.
|I investigated the scene a few weeks later|
They landed on a dry patch of earth in Creek Indian tribal grounds. Everything around them was soggy, too soggy to support the truck that arrived two hours later to take them and the helicopter back to base. If they’d landed anywhere else, the helicopter probably would have rolled. If our area hadn’t just had an entire week of sunshine—the longest stretch without rain all summer—the dry ground they landed on would have been soggy enough to roll the helicopter too. If the engine had failed to ‘spool up’ during the simulated auto-rotation before this one, Chris thinks they might have clipped the trees coming down. When Chris was in flight school, a training helicopter crashed into some trees during a similar maneuver, killing the student and badly injuring the rest of the people onboard.
“What did you say when Chris told you what happened?” asked one of Chris’ coworkers at a baby birthday party a few days later.
“I asked if he wanted a beer,” I said.
“What did you do?”
“I had a beer with him!”
So that was our helicopter thrill for September. It wasn’t our first (or second…or third…), and it probably won’t be the last!