Everyone is marveling at the emergency landing that a helicopter pilot made in the Hudson River yesterday. FDNY Deputy Chief Thomas McKavanagh noted how the passengers, a family of four Swedish tourists, felt the landing was like the impact of a 10-meter jump, "The pilot did a terrific job, considering he lost engine power" and NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, "They didn't even get wet." But humble pilot Michael Campbell says, "I was just doing my job. I did what I had to do."
Campbell, who works for New York Helicopter, had departed the Wall Street heliport when he experienced the engine trouble 12 minutes after takeoff. He made the decision to land the chopper in the Hudson River on the Upper West Side. Witness Stefan Capan, who was sitting just north of the West 79th Street Boat Basin, told us, "I saw the helicopter approaching north, going very fast and losing altitude very quickly." He noted how the pilot edged the nose up and then two yellow pontoons deployed off the runners. Capan, who thought those were flames and freaked out, called 911 and immediately patched through to the Coast Guard.
Campbell, 23, told the Post, "All of a sudden, I heard the noises, a big boom... I had about 20 seconds before I hit the ground. I first had to confirm my biggest fear — that the engine was out. I just needed to stay calm — because if I panicked, I knew it wouldn’t be a very good ending. It was like an umbrella turning inside out — the blades don’t have enough force" to keep the aircraft afloat, but "helicopters can glide."
WABC 7 had this insight, "Newscopter 7's John Del Giorno explains that when a chopper auto-rotates, or lands without engine power, that the pilot gets only one shot. He needs to arm the floats, then inflate them, and know exactly when to hit the brakes. In this case, the timing was perfect."
Even before the Coast Guard, Fire Department or NYPD got to the scene, private boaters helped the pilot and passengers out. The News reports, "Sebastian Berthelet, 38, and stepson Lambert De Monte, 16, were about a half-mile away in their 38-foot sailboat and jumped into a dinghy." They took Campbell while another boat took the family. The authorities removed the helicopter by crane and will be reviewing the Bell 206.
The passengers were taken to St. Luke’s Hospital for observation and declined to comment, but seemed to be in good spirirts. New York Helicopter said, "Unfortunately sometimes machines do fail, but everyone is going home in one piece, and that's a tribute to our pilot and our company."