Radio Traffic Shows PHI Pilot Kept His Cool During Emergency

The quick thinking of a pilot prevented disaster early yesterday morning... when a PHI AirMedical helicopter associated with St. Joseph Hospital Hospital in Bryan clipped a cell phone tower on the way to a San Antonio hospital.

Tense moments Sunday morning when a pilot for Bryan-based PHI clipped a tower while heading to San Antonio Military Medical Center. In radio conversations with air traffic controlers at San Antonio International Airport, the pilot skillfully instructed first responders on how best to help him land his damaged helicopter.

From Air Traffic Audio:
AIRMED: I need to declare an emergency and move straight to the airport.
TOWER: AirMed2, roger. Fly heading 3-0-5. Say nature of emergency and what can we do for you?
AIRMED: Airmed12, I hit a tower. I've broken a skid on the left side and I've got a patient on board and two crew members.

It was at that point airport officials and first responders began to look for the best place to set the damaged helicopter down. With one skid damaged the helicopter could loose balance when landing and crash.

From Air Traffic Audio:
AIRMED: Just something solid like some blocks, or use some matresses, anything like that we can find. Like two or three little matresses.
TOWER: I mean, if we can get some of these things out of the fire house -- exactly. If we can get a couple of matresses from them, maybe. Throw it underneath that.

Firefighters pulled matresses out of their dorms and stacked them. Then put 45-pound weights on top. That allowed the helicopter to land safely.

The pilot was able to hover long enough to get the crew on the ground to help coordinate the landing. Remarkably, no one was injured, including the patient on-board the helicopter.

There are questions about whether or not that cell phone tower had working lights. The Federal Aviation Adminsitration is opening an investigation into the accident.


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