HI - Helicopter crashes on test flight

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Posted on: Friday, March 23, 2001

Helicopter crashes on test flight

By Jan TenBruggencate Advertiser KauaÎi Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — Ni'ihau Helicopters' only aircraft crashed at Burns Field yesterday during flight testing with a Federal Aviation Administration official aboard.

Neither pilot Mike Hassett of Kalaheo nor FAA inspector Jeff Weller — the only people aboard — was injured.

Hanap«p« fire Capt. John Aana said the helicopter appeared to have landed hard and rolled onto its side, damaging the rotor blades. There was neither a fuel leak nor a fire.

The twin-engine helicopter is an Italian-made Agusta 109, certified to carry passengers across the ocean. It was used to carry hunting parties to Ni'ihau, to conduct Niihau Ranch business, and to run missions between Kaua'i and Ni'ihau for the Navy, which has a radar station and other facilities on the privately owned island.

The helicopter also was used for emergency medical missions between the two islands.

Keith Robinson, one of the owners of the island of Ni'ihau, said the pilot was simulating emergency procedures under the direction of the FAA official.

Robinson said he understood the helicopter was hovering six to eight feet above the runway at Burns Field, at the western edge of Hanapepe Bay, when something went wrong.

An investigation will be conducted to determine what happened. Robinson said the helicopter had recently undergone a major overhaul.

"It's a real serious blow. We're pretty sure the helicopter saved at least six or eight lives" performing medical evacuations, Robinson said.

Navy helicopters from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands sometimes also conduct emergency medical evacuations from the island.

The FAA could not be reached for comment.


-- Doris (nocents@bellsouth.net), March 24, 2001

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