In-flight mechanical failure on helicopter fighting Washington fire – pilot walks away

A helicopter working on the Blue Creek Fire 10 miles east of Walla Walla, Washington, had a mechanical failure while in flight Monday evening, according to the Union-Bulletin which quoted Heather Lee of Walla Walla County Emergency Management. The pilot autorotated the helicopter and walked away from the incident. He refused to be transported to an hospital, Ms. Lee said.

The type of helicopter was not identified, but the Union-Bulletin reported there were two helicopters and two air tankers working the fire Monday evening, and there are photos on the newspaper’s web site of a K-MAX dropping water on the fire. The Washington DNR has a fleet of 8 UH-1 Hueys.

Autorotation can be used when there is a loss of engine power in a helicopter. It is a state of flight where the main rotor system turns by the action of air moving UP through the rotor, rather than engine power driving the rotor, forcing air down. With the right pedal and the collective property configured, the main rotor will continue to rotate and the rate of descent and direction of flight can be controlled. When nearing the ground the pilot will flare the aircraft producing, hopefully, a fairly soft landing, that may include sliding on the skids for a bit.

Congratulations to the pilot for successfully executing the maneuver.