Pilot 'shaky' after wire near-miss

SUE O'DOWD
Last updated 08:08 26/06/2014
Eltham helicopter pilot David Beck narrowly missed a wire strung across a gully on a Taranaki farm earlier this year.
Fairfax NZ
CLOSE CALL: Eltham helicopter pilot David Beck narrowly missed a wire strung across a gully on a Taranaki farm earlier this year.

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Helicopter pilot David Beck knew a wire was strung across a gully of an eastern Taranaki farm where he was flying a couple of months ago.

The 42-year-old, who has been a pilot for 20 years, was about to apply fertiliser on Ian Jury's dairy farm at Tuna, near Midhirst, in eastern Taranaki and forgot about the wire.

"It was a momentary lapse," said the veteran of 6000 hours of flying in a Bell Iroquois, aka Huey, helicopter.

The wire was strung across a gully on the neighbouring farm of Brian, Aidan and Kerin Schumacher.

"I flew over some trees and went to drop into the gully - and remembered the wire. I had to pull up and out.

"If I hadn't known it was there and hadn't pulled up, I would have flown straight through it."

Beck said it took a long time to pull up because under the helicopter was a bucket of 1½ tonnes of fertiliser.

"I was ready to drop the bucket if it was going to hit the wire."

He confessed to feeling "a little bit shaky" afterwards.

His father, Alan Beck - himself a flying legend and owner of Beck Helicopters Ltd- said avoiding the wire had required considerable skill because the pilot had to pull out of a steep turn from a low level.

"He was right at the limit of what the blades could lift in terms of the weight because of the g-force being generated by his steep turn.

"It's unusual to do such a steep turn from a low level - let alone with a load. And he had the forethought to be ready to let the bucket go.

"At least the wire was marked," he said.

"We both knew the wire was there - but we forgot."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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