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Las Vegas Police Helicopter Crashes on City Street- Pilot and TFO OK

Pilot Initiates Auto-Rotation After Apparent Engine Failure

Update 1-9-15:  The NTSB released its preliminary accident report on this incident. Please scroll down to bottom of article to read it in its entirety. The complete accident report will not be available for approximately 1 year. 

UPDATE- 1-2-15: The officers who were piloting the helicopter when it went down have been identified as Officer David Callen and Officer Paul Lourenco. Both are flight instructors and each have over 2,200 hours of flight time. See the bottom of this article for a full press release from LVMPD.

Click the 8 News video below to hear the helicopter crew's radio traffic as they are going down. Great job by both officers.

The crew of a Las Vegas Metro Police MD530F patrol helicopter did an excellent job of notifying dispatch that they had an engine out and guiding the helicopter to an auto-rotational landing in the middle of 23rd St between Bonanza and E. Wilson northeast of Downtown Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve.

The area of Las Vegas where Las Vegas Air Support helicopter went down. Graphic- Mapquest

The area of Las Vegas where Las Vegas Air Support helicopter went down. Graphic- Mapquest

New Years Eve however turned tragic for the pilot and mechanic of a Cochise County (AZ) Sheriff’s Department helicopter that crashed while on a return flight from Phoenix to their home airport in Sierra Vista Arizona.

The Las Vegas Police Helicopter departed the North Las Vegas Airport at 1:22 PM to assist patrol units on an assault call. The helicopter and crew were approximately 7 minutes into their flight when the crew reported mechanical problems at 1:29 PM.

A damaged Las Vegas Metro Police MD530F helicopter sets on 23rd St in Las Vegas after pilot was forced to make an auto-rotational landing. Photo Credit LE Baskow Las Vegas Sun

In this situation the pilot and the TFO have approximately 18-20 seconds to lower the collective and enter an auto-rotation, pick out an emergency landing spot and guide the helicopter to it. That is assuming they were flying at an altitude of at least 500’ agl. By all accounts the LVMPD pilot did an excellent job of dodging power lines, homes and cars to place the helicopter in the middle of the street and avoiding injury to anyone on the ground.

Both officers were transported to University Medical Center for evaluation but their injuries were described as non-life threatening. The helicopter came to rest upright but was substantially damaged as it impacted the street.

After visiting both officers at University Medical Center Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie told media outlets that both crew members were alert and would be “fine.”

N530KK where it came to rest on 23rd Street near Downtown Las Vegas on New Years Eave 2014. The helicopter was purchased in 2010 from MD Helicopters. Both crew members survived. Photo credit John Locher, AP

The MD500 series helicopter is considered by many to be the most crash worthy helicopter ever built. The MD500 earned this legacy during the Vietnam conflict where it was operated primarily by the U.S. Army as a scout helicopter known as the MH-6 Little Bird and the armed variant Ah-6 also sometimes called the “Killer Egg”.

Below is the official statement from Las Vegas Metro Police Department on the incident;

LVMPD Helicopter Makes Emergency Landing

"Today at approximately 1:22 p.m., a LVMPD police helicopter took off from the airport and was assisting patrol units on a battery call in the downtown area. At approximately 1:29 p.m. the air unit was forced to make an emergency landing in the area of 23rd Street and East Wilson Avenue. The helicopter landed on 23rd Street, resulting in damage to the aircraft. The two pilots were transported to UMC where they were treated for minor injuries. The names of the pilots have not been released at this time. This incident is under investigation. All future information regarding this aircraft incident will be released by the FAA and NTSB."

Public records indicate that the LVMPD took delivery of helicopter N530KK from MD Helicopters in June of 2010. The helicopter is equipped with a a 650 shp Rolls Royce 250-C30 turboshaft engine. This more powerful engine coupled with longer rotor blades and an extended tail boom make the 530F MD Helicopter’s finest high-altitude, hot-day performer according to company press releases.

While indications are that this incident was the result of mechanical issues, a LVMPD helicopter crash in September 2012 occurred while the crew was practicing auto-rotational emergency landings at the North Las Vegas Airport. During that incident the helicopter suffered a hard landing and rolled over, causing over $1 million in damage. Both officers survived the 2012 crash as well.

But it is precisely the type of emergency procedures training the crew was practicing in 2012, that allows the crew of the helicopter in yesterday’s crash to survive and walk away with minor injuries. 

Tragedy did strike the LVMPD Air Support Unit in July 2013, Officer David VanBuskirk died after falling from a helicopter hoist cable during a night time rescue mission on Mount Charleston. This incident is still under investigation by the NTSB.

About LVMPD Air Support

The LVMPD Air Support Unit consists of 22 helicopter pilots, 2 tactical flight officers and 4 FAA certified aircraft mechanics.

The fleet consists of one Hughes 500D, three MD 530Fs, one Bell 407, two Bell UH1N Hueys, and a Cessna Skylane 182. The Air Support Unit operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and flies 6,000 hours annually.

Another MD530F operated by Las Vegas Metro Police Department on patrol over the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Photo Credit LVMPD

The damaged helicopter was eventually loaded on the back of a flatbed truck and taken to an undisclosed location for further examination by investigators. By 6pm 23rd street was reopened and the neighborhood began to return to normal.

Press Release Issued by LVMPD on 1-2-15

Pilots Involved in December 31, 2014
Emergency Helicopter Landing Identified


"The officers involved in the emergency landing of a LVMPD helicopter on a residential street December 31, 2014 have been identified as Officer David Callen and Officer Paul Lourenco. Officer Callen has been employed with the LVMPD since March, 2000 and Officer Lourenco has been employed with the LVMPD since July, 1997. Both officers are pilots assigned to the
Emergency Operations Bureau, Search and Rescue/Air Support Detail.

Both officers were treated for their injuries at the UMC Trauma Center and were released the same evening. The officers are both experienced pilots, each having over 2,200 flight hours, and both are certified flight instructors. An audio clip of the radio traffic of the incident accompanies this release.

An extensive review of each of the aircraft in the LVMPD fleet is currently underway. Initially, no LVMPD helicopters will be flying in regular service. Each of the aircraft will go through a detailed inspection and maintenance record check. At the conclusion of each inspection, the respective aircraft will be released back into service.

The six helicopters in Metro’s fleet include one Bell 407, three McDonnell Douglas 530-FF’s, and two Bell HH-1H’s. The aircraft involved in this incident was a McDonnell Douglas 530-FF. The department now has five operational helicopters in the fleet. The investigation into this incident remains ongoing. As the primary responsibility for the investigation lies with the Federal Aviation Administration, we will not be releasing further
information or giving interviews at this time
."

Following is the NTSB preliminary report on this incident.

NTSB Identification: WPR15TA071

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation

Accident occurred Wednesday, December 31, 2014 in Las Vegas, NV

Aircraft: MD HELICOPTER INC 369FF, registration: N530KK

Injuries: 2 Minor.

"This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.

On December 31, 2014, about 1330 Pacific standard time, an MD Helicopter Inc. 369FF, N530KK, was substantially damaged during an emergency autorotation following a sudden loss of engine power in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two commercial pilots on board sustained minor injuries. The helicopter was registered to, and operated by, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department as a public-use flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The local flight originated from North Las Vegas Airport, Las Vegas, at 1322.

The pilot reported that he was orbiting when he noticed a drop in engine and rotor revolutions per minute (rpm). The pilot then rolled the helicopter out of the orbit, and the engine and rotor rpm stabilized momentarily at 97%. The pilot attempted to increase the engine and rotor rpm while turning west towards the North Las Vegas Airport. During the maneuver, the engine and rotor rpm rapidly degraded. The pilot entered an autorotation, and executed an emergency landing. The helicopter touched down hard, the tail impacted the ground, and separated from the airframe."