ANN News-Spy Was There
Dave Jones of www.auav.net, who makes
one to three-meter wingspan autonomous industrial/agricultural
aerial vehicles, was watching. He was working on a UAV
demonstration in the otherwise-deserted area, and was all camera'd
"It was putting out fires," he told us; "I watched it go in. He
was about 150 feet up, when I heard the turbine go,
'vvvuup!' and a big ball of flame came out the back of the
engine. When it hit, a ball of fire the size of a VW Beetle came
out of the pipe."
Dave and his crew wanted to do what they could. "I got my cell
phone out, and dialed 911," Jones said. "The pilot had a gash over
his right eye. He started to get out, but the main rotor blades
were still spinning -- he was dazed, and he could have caught a
rotor blade. I yelled at him to stay in the aircraft... He climbed
back in, until it stopped turning."
When he got out, he made it a hundred feet or so, and told Dave
that he hadn't had the strength to shut everything down. Dave ran
over to the splattered helicopter, climbed in, and shut off
everything in sight -- master, avionics, and fuel. "Then the
ambulance arrived," Dave remembered.
Why not use a UAV?
"The irony of this," Dave said, "was that we were there to test
our UAV for this exact purpose -- to get human pilots out of
aircraft, under dangerous situations."
"In fact, in Japan, they use a Yamaha helicopter UAV to carry 30
gallons of water," Dave noted, and added, "though something that
small wouldn't have worked on the Idaho fire."
Something went terribly wrong.
"The FAA examiner came out the next day," Dave said, "and he
reached inside the turbine (it had an Allison), and pulled the chip
detector on the right side. It was full of metal. That turbine was
locked up tighter than..."
Pilot did a great job.
Dave couldn't have had higher praise for the pilot. "From the
time it burped, to the time it hit the ground, was maybe two
seconds. The pilot, John Britton, did an outstanding job. If he
hadn't been right on top of it, he would have died. As it was, it
hit hard. It dumped pieces all over the place."
** Report created 8/26/2003 Record
Make/Model: AS50 Description:
AS-350/550 ECUREUIL, ASTAR, SU
Date: 08/13/2003 Time: 2200
Event Type: Incident Highest Injury:
None Mid Air: N Missing:
City: LEWISTON State: ID Country:
DEPARTMENT OF LANDS, PUBLIC USE AIRCRAFT CRASHED UNDER
UNKNOWN CIRCUMSTANCES WHILE SPOTTING FIRES FOR THE GROUND CREWS, 15
MILES EAST OF LEWISTION, ID
INJURY DATA Total Fatal:
# Crew: 1 Fat:
0 Unk: Y
# Pass: 0 Fat:
0 Unk: Y
Fat: 0 Ser:
WEATHER: METAR LWS 132156Z 29006KT 10SM CLR 31/03 A3001
Activity: Public Use Phase:
Unknown Operation: General
Dep Date: Dep. Time:
Flt Plan: NONE Wx
Last Radio Cont: UNK
Last Clearance: UNK
FAA FSDO: SPOKANE, WA
Entry date: 08/14/2003