Wednesday, August 5, 2009

NYPD chopper makes 2nd emergency landing in 3 days; faulty light blamed

From the Daily News by Michael Lipkin and Alison Gendar:
An NYPD helicopter made an emergency landing in Prospect Park on Tuesday, its second unscheduled touchdown in three days.

Police said the "precautionary landing" happened just before 1a.m. yesterday in one of the Brooklyn park's ball fields.

The pilot noticed a light blinking on the control panel and, rather than continue flying, chose to land and have the chopper tested, a police spokesman said.

"Most of the people thought it was for a movie because so many movies are filming in Park Slope right now," said dog-walker Johanna Clearfield, who lives nearby.

"[It was] like having a giant SUV with mechanics under there trying to get the engine going," she said.

An NYPD technical crew came out to check on the helicopter, and after nearly eight hours on the ground, the chopper took off at about 8:45 a.m., spectators said.

An NYPD spokesman said no mechanical problems were uncovered.

The same helicopter - N315PD - made an unexpected landing on the Metropolitan Oval Soccer Field in Maspeth, Queens, just before 3 a.m. Saturday.

The same problem - a faulty indicator light was to blame - a spokesman said.

As the helicopter sat on the Prospect Park grass, police placed ladders up against the bird to check the rotors, parkgoers said.

"Obviously, the pilot did not want to land in Prospect Park if he had other options," said dog-walker Gary Osgood, who waited until the copter took off.

"They removed the ladders and it looked like a normal helicopter takeoff," he said, noting spectators took it all in stride and joked "how this was the longest coffee and doughnut run we'd seen."

The NYPD has a fleet of seven choppers. The one that landed in Prospect Park is one of four patrol helicopters that are slated to be replaced in 2010 with federal homeland security funds.

The department is also replacing two Bell 412 air-sea rescue copters at a cost of $18.6 million.

The Bells are at least 10 years old and have logged more than 4,000 hours in the air, which means their engines have to be rebuilt or replaced.

A third rescue chopper in the NYPD fleet, bought in 2003, is loaded with counterterrorism extras including mapping, surveillance and communication technology.

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