It’s the kind of thing you don’t want to hear even once in your life, let alone twice: the sudden whump and silence where there should be helicopter rotor blades. Yesterday though, was the second time for me.
We live next to an official low-fly training zone for aircraft. It’s quite routine for small planes or helicopters to turn up, swoop around, and do the kinds of things pilots in training do. Sometimes it’s an aerobatics plane flying low and doing all kinds of interesting stunts.
Today though, the helicopter didn’t do the usual — suddenly there was a loud bang followed by silence. I turned to look but could see nothing: there are many trees between us and most of the training area. Eventually though — after a 20 minute call to the Police — I spotted the helicopter on the ground about 750 metres away, and my binoculars allowed me to see a couple of people walking around beside it.
Later news reports confirmed one person was slightly injured, while another was fine. It’s a relief to know that no-one was badly injured. I suspect the helicopter was low to the ground when it crashed, perhaps hovering, as that’s what they often do. Accident investigators will be looking into it though and release their findings eventually.
Meanwhile, there are some very bent rotors and a machine on its side.
Oh, and that first crash I witnessed: it was all the way back in 2001. A helicopter had been working for weeks taking material from a building site on steep property in Palliser Road, Mt Victoria, Wellington. It would fly to the top of the hill, where we lived, dump the material into a truck and then fetch another load.
One day we were walking the dogs and had just turned the corner with our backs to the lookout at the top of Mt Vic when we heard an awful noise: the helicopter had crashed into the top of the hill. We turned to see debris flying into the air and a heap of tourists running away from the crash. Then some ran towards the helicopter. We read later a visiting doctor tried to help the pilot, who later died of injuries.
For at least a year after that every time I heard a helicopter flying overhead I’d feel a bit anxious.
Meanwhile there’s a helicopter lying on its side in a nearby paddock, and the skies are a bit quieter. I’m wondering how they remove it. I guess soon I’ll find out.