Two men 'lucky to be alive' after helicopter loses power and lands in rough terrain

A Hughes 500 owned by Alpine Springs Helicopters putting out a bush fire.
Alpine Helicopters

A Hughes 500 owned by Alpine Springs Helicopters putting out a bush fire.

It has been a hell of a day for two Cantabrians and it's not even time for afternoon smoko.

Just before 8.18am on Saturday, Bill Hales, 66 and Mickey Broadhurst, 27 were recovering venison in their Hughes 500 helicopter high above Arthur's Pass when the engine stopped running.

The pilots noticed that they were quickly losing rotor speed about 30 kilometres northeast of Otira near Arthur's Pass.

The helicopter came down in bush about 30 kilometres northeast of Otira near Arthur's Pass.
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The helicopter came down in bush about 30 kilometres northeast of Otira near Arthur's Pass.

Hales has had an engine malfunction before in his career and said he didn't even have time to panic.

"We may have said a word that rhymed with 'duck', but the training kicked in. You don't have time to be worried. I've been doing it for 40 years "

The pilots managed a brief auto-rotation, a method of using the air rather than the engine to spin the blades, and actually landed the helicopter on its skids in a rough, obscure place called Graft Creek on the West Coast.

According to Hales the whole incident took a "maximum" of five seconds.

The Hughes 500 belongs to Alpine Springs Helicopters, a company Hales founded in 1995. Hales said it wasn't a maintenance issue, but rather bad luck.

When the pilots landed the helicopter they immediately signalled for help, and were rescued in just over an hour.

"We set the beacon off and we had our own tracking devices and other safety systems in place. We were all back in Hanmer in time for breakfast."

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Hales said at lunch time that he'd already returned home, had breakfast and done some farm work.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) spokesman, Mark Dittmer, said the two occupants of the helicopter from Alpine Springs Helicopters were both uninjured.

"They are extremely lucky to have landed and survive the incident. There was some skilled piloting involved."

The two men were retrieved by Garden City Helicopters as part of Westpac Helicopter Rescue.

Hales said he'd arrange for the chopper to be air-lifted out tomorrow.

 - Stuff

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