A medical helicopter missing half of its landing gear after hitting a cellphone tower early Sunday made an emergency landing atop three mattresses provided by San Antonio firefighters.

 

08/06/2012

 

Helicopter Makes Emergency Landing On.....Matresses??

MySanAntonio.com

 

A medical helicopter missing half its landing gear came to a gentle rest on top of three mattresses during an emergency landing at San Antonio International Airport, where the aircraft was diverted after it struck a cellphone tower early Sunday.

Around 3:30 a.m., a PHI Air Medical chopper carrying one patient and three crew members hit a tower near Interstate 35 and Binz-Engleman Road, knocking off one of the aircraft's two skids, PHI spokesman Brad Neutser said.

“Skids give you the balance to land on two feet, so to speak,” Deutser said.

According to San Antonio police, the impact occurred close to the helicopter's destination, the San Antonio Military Medical Center. The aircraft was directed to the airport, where San Antonio firefighters under the direction of Capt. Kevin Campbell were tasked with landing the damaged helicopter.

Campbell said the pilot, communicating through the airport's control tower, asked if firefighters had anything to put under the chopper so it could land.

“He knew if he landed, that he would crash,” Campbell said. “He suggested mattresses, and I told Engine 23 to grab three or four mattresses from the dorm. We also brought out weights from our weight room to hold the mattresses down.”

Campbell said the aircraft hovered for a short time above a space between two taxiways, but the pilot worried that he'd run out of gas.

“It was tense for a little bit,” Campbell said, “but we stacked the mattresses and weighted them down with four, 45-pound plate weights and he landed on top of it. It worked great.”

Deutser said all four people on board the helicopter — a patient and three crew members traveling from Bryan to San Antonio Military Medical Center — were uninjured in the landing. An AirLife helicopter then flew the patient and a flight paramedic from the PHI aircraft to SAMMC.

“It took extraordinary action; there was great focus and great skill by the crew, as well as ground crews, to ensure there was a safe landing,” Deutser said. “Some really talented people made this happen.”

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said using mattresses in the emergency landing is “what you'd call fast-thinking.” The FAA is now looking into what caused the crash, he said, adding that the investigation will look into whether or not the cell tower had proper lighting and the altitude at which the helicopter was traveling.

The aircraft, a Bell 407 rotorcraft owned by PHI, is permanently housed at St. Joseph Regional Health Center. According to a news release, the two entities entered a partnership last year for air medical transportation.

“There's a lot that we don't know,” said Deutser, “but there were no injuries, and that's the most important part.”

Campbell said he'd never heard of using mattresses in a helicopter's emergency landing.

“That was all we had, and we were glad it worked out,” he said. “But no, I don't think I ever want to

do that again.”

A medical helicopter that landed safely at the San Antonio International Airport after it collided with a cell phone tower and damaged its landing gear. The chopper, which lost one of its two skids, landed successfully on top of three mattresses in San Antonio, Texas on Sunday, August 5, 2012.  Photo courtesy Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters. Photo: Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters / Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters

  A crane begins to remove the medical helicopter after it landed safely on mattresses at San   Antonio International  Airport. All four people aboard the helicopter were uninjured. “We were glad it worked out,” San Antonio Fire Department Capt. Kevin Campbell said. “But no, I don’t think I want to do that ever again.” Photo: Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters / Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters