Blowing snow and poor visibility – combined with the unexpected proximity of some giant wind turbines – forced a helicopter pilot to crash-land Tuesday near the wind farm in Fenner.
The helicopter broke into pieces. The pilot and three passengers suffered only minor injuries.
The aircraft, operated by Adkins Aviation of Cornelius, N.C., made the emergency landing around noon in a field near the intersection of Bellinger and Peterboro roads, state police said.
The 2006 R-44 II craft made by the Robinson Helicopter Co. landed less than 100 yards from several of the 328-foot-high windmills on the property.
“They will be sore tomorrow,” said State Police Capt. Francis Coots of Troop D in Oneida. “They were relatively lucky.”
One passenger, Carl Snyder, of Huntersville, N.C., was taken to a Syracuse hospital with neck injuries, state police said. The other two were identified as Joel Brown, 33, and Mark Adkins, 42, the company’s owner.
The pilot, Zachariah Bowers, 51, of Jacksonville, Fla., didn’t realize that there were windmills in the area and decided to bring the helicopter down after he saw the turbines just below him, troopers said.
“It looked like he was caught off guard,” Coots said.
There was very little visibility at the time, with heavy winds and snow blowing across the open fields.
“He wanted to land it before the fog came in,” said Sgt. Scott Nell.
Oneonta Municipal Airport manager Brad Curpier said the three passengers told him they were looking at land in Otsego, Chenango and Madison counties.
“We (airport employees) were talking about how stupid it is to be flying out today, because of the weather,” Curpier said. “I heard (the passengers) say they were going to fly into Syracuse and take a jet home tomorrow.”
The Associated Press and Post-Standard staff writer Alaina Potrikus contributed to this report.
By Aaron Gifford
16 January 2008
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