The accompanying gripping video was shot by the left-seat passenger on the third hog-hunting flight of the day. But this one ended abruptly about a minute and 10 seconds after takeoff.
Just after clearing the Albany, Texas, airport boundary at about 120 feet of altitude, the Robinson R44 II’s engine sputters, then quits completely. The pilot immediately initiates autorotation procedures. Faced straight ahead with a road atop a daunting berm, the pilot opts, instead, for a left turn to a landing spot on flat terrain surrounded by brush and scrub trees. The landing is successful in that all aboard walked away uninjured. The helicopter was not as fortunate.
Unavoidably, one of the main rotors strikes a small tree, subsequently hitting the tail boom and severing it from the fuselage. There is no fire.
The pilot calmly instructs the two passengers to stay put until the rotor stops spinning, and everyone escapes unscathed. “You all good?” he asks calmly. “All good,” they respond. “OK. Perfect,” he says, “Sorry about that, boys.” The pilot calmly shuts down and secures the helicopter as the rotors spin to a stop.
After getting out of their seats and securing the weapons, the three hunters survey the damage and reflect on one more “bucket-list” experience—with a decidedly un-PG compliment to the pilot’s skill.