A helicopter pilot involved in a crash that injured four people, including married on their wedding day, faced “the worst possible emergency,” another pilot said.
Christchurch couple Mahdi Zougoub and Fay El Hanafy were injured in the helicopter crash on the wedding day on June 12. Wedding photographer Rachel Jordan was also seriously injured along with pilot Lynda Harrap.
The helicopter’s owner, Wyndon Aviation, had said earlier that the investigation was in its early stages, but it had been established that the engine suffered a “total loss of power shortly after take-off”.
After the crash, the company conducted an internal investigation, including a review of data and other evidence gathered by independent helicopter pilot Simon Spencer-Bower.
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In a statement released by Wyndon Aviation, Spencer-Bower said helicopters can land safely in the event of an engine failure through a procedure called autorotation descent.
“Which basically involves sliding the helicopter close to the ground and then cushioning the helicopter to the ground with little or no forward speed.”
Emergency practice was a “major component” of all aviation flight training, he said.
Spencer-Bower said Harrap only had “fractions of a second to respond.” He said Harrap was not only a very experienced professional pilot but also a senior helicopter flight instructor.
“All the parameters of the flight leading up to the time of the engine failure were completely done ‘by the book’. No compromise was made.
“Faced with the worst possible emergency, with very low altitude and limited landing zone options, the pilot was able to react immediately to the dire situation and placed the helicopter in an autorotation descent, avoided the trees in front and directed to an open area, and to illuminate the helicopter on the ground with as little vertical descent as possible in the situation, sufficiently reducing the impact forces and thus saving everyone’s life.
The pilot’s actions were a “prime example of a professional pilot in command,” he said.
A spokesperson for Wyndon Aviation said the company was “extremely proud” of Harrap.
Harrap, who suffered spinal injuries, remains in Burwood Hospital and has continued to make “positive gains,” the company said.