This PHI helicopter landed safely Monday at Harry P. Williams Memorial Airport after the pilot reported a potential problem with the control system in flight.
The Daily Review/Bill Decker
(UPDATED) Helicopter pilot makes emergency landing in Patterson
PATTERSON — A PHI Inc. helicopter pilot landed safely Monday morning at Harry P. Williams Memorial Airport after a brief scare related to the aircraft’s control led the sheriff’s office, two fire departments and Acadian Ambulance to stand by.
The pilot was alone in the Bell 407 helicopter and wasn’t injured after the landing near Perry Flying Center at the Patterson-area airport. Owner/President Ken Perry said the center was the pilot’s planned destination.
The pilot’s full name wasn’t immediately available, although Perry said his last name is Tanaka. The LinkedIn app has a listing for a Takayuki Tanaka, who is described as an oil and gas helicopter pilot for PHI.
The initial call about the incident came into the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office from a 911 dispatcher at 9:32 a.m. Monday, according to Lt. Traci Landry of the sheriff’s office. The helicopter was safely on the ground by 10 a.m. The Patterson and Bayou Vista volunteer departments were also on the scene.
Perry, whose center at the airport is used by PHI for crew changes, said PHI called and asked him to have the fire department and other emergency services standing by during the landing.
The problem was a “binding” in the helicopter controls that might have indicated a problem with the craft’s hydraulic system and a potential loss of control, Perry said.
The pilot was prepared to do a “run on landing,” which would mean skidding along the ground at 20-40 knots, Perry said. But the pilot was able to bring the helicopter down safely.
By lunchtime, PHI had mechanics and safety and maintenance people on the scene to examine the helicopter, Perry said.
Another pilot reporting control system difficulties figured in another incident at Harry P. Williams Memorial 18 years ago. The earlier event didn’t have the same happy ending.
According to the final report by the National Transportation Safety Board, a Eurocopter AS350B2 helicopter owned by the now defunct Tex Air was flying between Morgan City and the Eugene Island 307B energy platform at 10:25 a.m. May 24, 2000.
The pilot reported feeling a “thump and a yaw” as he flew at 1,000 feet, the report said. There was no tail rotor response. The pilot opted for an emergency landing at Patterson's airport.
The pilot confirmed that the Eurocopter’s tail rotor continued to turn, and he reviewed emergency procedures for the aircraft. He made three approaches to a runway to burn off excess fuel. But on the fourth approach, after firetrucks arrived, the hydraulic system failed, the NTSB report said.
The pilot decided to auto rotate, or let the force of air coming up through the rotors, rather than the engine, turn the blades. He told a passenger how to cut the fuel supply.
The pilot aimed for a grassy area near the firetrucks, but when he touched down, the helicopter yawed to the left and flipped over.
The helicopter sustained substantial damage, and the pilot and passenger sustained minor injuries, the NTSB report said.
An earlier version of the photo caption attributed the emergency to engine trouble. It has been corrected.