Pilot keeps helicopter crash away from others on ground - Tucson News Now

Pilot keeps helicopter crash away from others on ground

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By J.D. Wallace - bio | email

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) – Flaming wreckage of a deadly helicopter crash marked the end of a troubled flight over midtown.

"It looked like he was trying to get control of the ship or put it in a safe landing zone," said witness Cliff Felland.

All three crew aboard a Lifenet helicopter died after it crashed on Park Avenue south of Glenn about 1:43 p.m. Wednesday.

"I didn't hear any noise but I heard the black smoke, thick black smoke," Felland said.  He also said that he used to fly helicopters, and that he knows that a pilot can maintain some control when things go wrong.

"You auto-rotate down.  Your blades keep spinning in the air and you control your landing with the prop and the tail rotor and you land pretty hard but you land," he said.

"What happens is you use the stored energy in the rotor system as is it's spinning to control your descent," said retired helicopter pilot Ray Caryl.  He used to fly for KOLD News 13.

"You have control of that machine all the way to the ground, unless pieces start coming off of it," he said about flying a helicopter with mechanical problems.

He said that engine failure can require the pilot to keep the blades spinning above and maintain control.  He explained that a failure with the tail rotor actually requires speeding up.

"There's a vertical stabilizer back there and that will more or less keep it above a certain minimum airspeed," he said.

Just what happened Wednesday afternoon will require thorough investigation.  But both men said that one thing seems certain about the pilot.

"I think he did a good job for what was out there what he was right in the middle of the city," Felland said.

"Whatever was wrong with that helicopter and I don't know and we won't know for awhile, he flew that thing all the way to impact and God bless him," Caryl said.

Any public announcements on possible causes for the crash could take few months.  The timeframe depends on what the pilot might have said to Tucson Approach and what investigators find in the wreckage

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