Frances Cook is a Wellington based multimedia reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Helicopter pilot who crashed in inlet facing charges

The pilot whose helicopter crashed into the Pautahanui Inlet on Tuesday is facing an earlier charge of operating an aircraft in a careless manner.

Rick Lucas walked away from yesterday's crash relatively unscathed, but the BK 117 helicopter he was flying is stuck in the inlet.

It's now known he's facing charges of careless flying, and is due in the Wellington District Court this month.

The charges allege he operated an aircraft in a careless manner over Pukerua Bay and Wellington.

The Civil Aviation Authority and Ministry of Justice said they couldn't provide any further information.

Immediately after Tuesday's crash, Lucas said he was relieved to be "sore, but fine".

He said he knew something was wrong when he felt "quite an intense vibration that got worse and worse" before the helicopter began to rotate.

"I just carried out what are considered to be the normal emergency procedures and got away with it."

The pilot said he tried to stop the machine from rotating, but hit the water with a "significant impact".

"I ended up under the water, couldn't get my seatbelt off," he said.

He has flown helicopters for 35 years and has had one other tail rotor failure in his life.

The helicopter is expected to be salvaged today, although bad weather may hamper the operation.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission spokesman Peter Williams said the machine was stuck in the mud in shallow water.

He hoped it could be floated out using airbags, but the extent to which it was stuck remains to be seen.

Harbourmaster Mike Pryce agreed that the mud could be a problem.

He said they were strategising ways to salvage the helicopter today, and a solution was expected later this morning.

The MetService has issued a severe weather watch for much of the lower North Island and top of the south.

Severe northwest gales are expected to hit Marlborough, Wellington, Horowhenua, Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa this afternoon.

Gale force wind and heavy rain brought down trees, sent trampolines flying and forced the cancellation of trains in the capital earlier this week.

- NZ Herald

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