Lochside Garage

Miraculous escape for passengers in helicopter drama


Ballyshannon clock

A HELICOPTER pilot and his three passengers had a narrow escape after their aircraft hit wires while trying to land in a field near Ballyshannon.
Despite serious damage being caused to the helicopter’s rotor blades, he was able to make a safe landing and all on board walked away shaken but unscathed.
A report into the incident, which occurred on May 28 last year, was published by the Air Accident Investigation Unit Ireland on Friday.
It reveals how the aircraft left Belleek in Fermanagh at around 11.30am, bound for Lough Eske in Donegal.
Before the start of the flight though, the pilot was asked to visit a friend of the one of the passengers to allow photographs of the helicopter to be taken.
Upon reaching the field near Ballyshannon, the pilot spotted wires surrounding the land. He failed however to notice the wires that were crossing the middle of the field and it was while on his final approach he got into difficulty.
“The main rotor struck and cut the wires,” the report reveals.
“Video evidence from a witness shows the tail of the helicopter swinging down and to the right before the helicopter was brought under control.”
The incident came to light when a local farmer contacted ESB about the broken wires.
An inspection of the aircraft was carried out and experts noticed the more heavily damaged blade had several indentations on its leading edge as well as tears and scrapes to its surface.
In its findings Air Accident said that collisions with overhead wires were a “common cause of aviation accidents and serious incidents in Ireland and elsewhere, with events involving both rotary wing and fixed wing aircraft”.
“Most helicopter wire strikes occur during daytime with good visibility and with experienced pilots in charge,” said investigators.
“Wires are difficult to see, partly because of the way the human eye functions and partly because of the effects of background camouflaging.The movement of wires in sunlight and changing sunlight patterns can also obscure wires.”
They added too that the pilot was wrong to fly back to the departure field after the incident.
“Following the wire strike, a cursory inspection of the helicopter was performed by the pilot with the assistance of one of the passengers, who the pilot said, was a ‘helicopter engineer’.
“The pilot then flew the helicopter back to the departure field with this person on board. This was done despite noticing damage to the main rotor blades and being aware of the potentially catastrophic consequences of operating a helicopter with damage to the main rotor blades.
“The Investigation does not consider that this was a prudent course of action,” the investigation team added.

Erne West Cllr Alex Baird has expressed concern at any threat to the popular route.

The Diocese of Clogher has said there will be no handshake ban implemented at churches across Fermanagh.


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