Pilot Julia Link Lands Helicopter Safely After Engine Failure: Miracle or Skill?

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Home / Pilot Julia Link Lands Helicopter Safely After Engine Failure: Miracle or Skill?

Helicopter About to Enter Autorotation and Land on Airfield Below. Image by Helen Krasner

Over Honolulu, an appropriate landing site might be difficult to find, but Miss Link had around three minutes in which to notify the Fire Department and get her helicopter to a suitable area – quite a long time really. The only thing she would have needed to do really fast is start her descent; if she had not done that, the rotor blades would have stopped turning and the helicopter would have crashed.

The pilot then needed to react quite quickly to stop the forward motion of the helicopter and put it on to the ground.

Landing on the Street in Honolulu: How Difficult Was This Manoeuvre?

All helicopter pilots practise simulated autorotations frequently, and Miss Link stated that she had done so. If you are in practice, it is not particularly difficult. However, we all know that doing it for real would be a very different thing. Few of us have had to do so, as sudden engine failures are very, very rare.

One of the difficulties in this case would have been that when overhead a built up area, there is usually not a huge choice of suitable landing sites. Also, the R22 is a notoriously difficult machine to land safely after an autorotation, with less leeway for error than you get in larger helicopters.

Miss Link would have had to react quickly, keep a cool head, make a quick decision as to her landing site, and use considerable skill to effect a safe landing. And she did so!

Miracle Landing, or Skilled Pilot?

Contrary to what some of the media have said, this was not a miracle, but simply a skilled landing by a well-trained pilot. I’d like to think I could have done the same, but thankfully that has never been put to the test. So, from one helicopter pilot to another, well done Julia!

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