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Hard landing damages police copter

By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2002

TAMPA -- A Tampa police helicopter was heavily damaged Friday during a training exercise that simulated an in-flight engine failure.

The two police pilots on board, Randy Miller and Jim Williams, were only slightly injured.

"It was a hard landing, a controlled crash," said police spokesman Joe Durkin. "This is a yearly training requirement that they go through. They practice this to be ready to handle an in-flight emergency."

Williams, a flight officer, was at the controls during the so-called "auto rotation" landing exercise about 2:45 p.m. at Tampa International Airport. Miller, a chief pilot, was the co-pilot.

The maneuver is used to soften a crash landing when a helicopter loses power; the pilot allows the engine to idle and raises the nose to allow airflow to slow the chopper.

Durkin said Williams had completed several auto rotations just before the crash.

The helicopter was about 100 feet off the ground when Williams started the final descent. Durkin said the helicopter landed too fast, and the rotor blades chopped off the helicopter's tail.

Williams and Miller were able to walk away, but were taken to Memorial Hospital. They were released after treatment for bruises.

The 32-year-old Army surplus helicopter, valued at $250,000, was obtained by the department in 1994. It was unknown if the helicopter, one of six the department owns, can be repaired.

Tampa police and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

-- Tamara Lush can be reached at 226-3373 or lush@sptimes.com.

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