ROD THOMPSON / RTHOMPSON@STARBULLETIN.COM
An MD 500 helicopter owned by Tropical Helicopters lay on its belly yesterday following a hard landing at Hilo airport. One of the five people aboard was taken to Hilo Medical Center with minor injuries. A second passenger on the helicopter, piloted by a Hilo woman, was also injured and was treated at the scene.
2 hurt in hard landing
The women suffer minor injuries in a case that is classified as an incident, not an accident
HILO » A Hughes MD 500 E tour helicopter owned by Tropical Helicopters made a hard landing at Hilo Airport yesterday moments after takeoff, breaking a landing skid and bending its tail assembly, authorities said.
A 69-year-old Monmouth, Ore., woman was treated for minor injuries at Hilo Medical Center and a 45-year-old Roseburg, Ore., woman was treated at the scene, police said.
The women were passengers with their husbands on the aircraft piloted by a 33-year-old woman from Hilo, police said.
The pilot told police she experienced mechanical difficulties about 10 feet above the ground immediately after taking off at 9:30 a.m. The helicopter traveled 173 feet before making a hard landing in which the right skid was broken and the tail boom leading to the tail rotor was bent, police said.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor in Los Angeles said flight controllers saw the aircraft leaning toward the right as it took off. They attempted to make radio contact with the pilot, but she did not respond, he said.
The pilot reported that she had trouble with the control that determines whether the helicopter goes left or right, forward or backward, Gregor said.
The case has been classified by the FAA as an "incident" rather than an accident, Gregor said, meaning there was no death, serious injury or substantial damage.
County Fire Department personnel arriving at 9:47 a.m. found all occupants outside the aircraft and being tended to by airport fire personnel.
There was no fire, but airport fire fighting equipment remained at the scene as a precaution, county fire fighters said.
State business records identify the owner of Tropical Helicopters as K&S Helicopters Inc. on Kailua-Kona. The company's Web site says it has been in business since 1997. A company employee in Hilo who described herself as the manager declined to comment.
A Hughes 500 D helicopter operated by Tropical crashed in the coastal lava flow area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 2003, killing the pilot and three passengers.
In 2001, a Bell 206 JetRanger operated by the company filled with smoke and made an emergency landing in a field south of Hilo. The pilot and four passengers escaped, but the aircraft burned.