Wild weather has damaged an Auckland Westpac rescue helicopter, with a strong, unexpected wind gust knocking its rotors into the tail while four crew were onboard.
The chopper, BK-117, had just landed after completing a mission and was powering down about 2pm last Friday when the incident occurred.
The chief executive officer of the Northern Rescue Helicopter Limited, Ian MacPherson, told the Herald the crew heard a sudden “bang, bang, bang” as they sat in the aircraft.
“This particular thing is called blade sailing, where the blade flaps up and down and its rotation is very slow and it contacted parts of the tail boom,” MacPherson said.
“It’s currently [out of action]. It’s been pulled into the hangar and it’s been assessed. There’s been an insurance assessor here today and we’re getting the engineering assessment done on it in the next few days,” he said.
“I would imagine it’s definitely going to be [out of action for] a few weeks. Beyond that, I couldn’t say.”
MacPherson said there would “not [be] a huge impact” on Northern Rescue’s operations with two other helicopters at its disposal.
“And then there are more helicopters based down in Hamilton, so across the network, I don’t think that this is going to have a major impact,” he said.
The pilot, a co-pilot, a critical care paramedic and a pre-hospital and retrieval medicine doctor were on board.
“Thankfully, there were no injuries to any crew or staff on the ground,” a spokesman for Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust said.
The Civil Aviation Authority was notified of the incident, he said.
Raphael Franks is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He joined the Herald as a Te Rito cadet in 2022.