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UPDATE: Engine Failure Forces Hard Landing for Tour Chopper

Posted July 25, 2013, 02:38 PM HST Updated July 25, 2013, 07:05 PM HST
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An airport firefighter peers into a helicopter that made a hard landing this afternoon in a field adjacent to Hilo’s airport. Photo by Dave Smith.

***Updated at 3:35 p.m.***

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the hard landing of a tour helicopter early this afternoon in a field next to Hilo International Airport.

According to Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA’s Pacific Region based in Los Angeles, the helicopter was headed for a landing when its pilot reported an engine failure.

He said the pilot managed to auto-rotate the aircraft into a grassy area on the mauka side of Kekuanaoa Street just past its intersection with Kanoelehua Avenue.

The helicopter ended up on its side after one of its landing struts collapsed on landing.

Gregor said there were five people aboard the aircraft. There were no immediate reports of injuries, he said.

The chopper is a McDonnell Douglas 500 helicopter registered to K&S Helicopters based in Kailua-Kona.

K&S is the parent company of Paradise Helicopters, which was operating the aircraft.

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An earlier Big Island Now report incorrectly identified the operator as Tropical Helicopters, which is also owned by K&S and listed as a co-owner of the helicopter.

According to Rob Payesko, director of business development for Paradise Helicopters, the helicopter had flown out of Hilo for a 45-minute tour of the volcano area.

Payesko said the company has suspended its flight operations for the rest of the day.

He declined to immediately identify the chopper’s pilot or provide information on its passengers.

“We’re just so thankful that nobody was injured,” Payesko said.

According to the FAA, the incident happened at about 1:15 p.m.

***Updated at 4:12 p.m. with additional details and to clarify which company was operating the helicopter tour.***

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