A Robinson R-44 crashed into the surf near 10th Street in Miami Beach this weekend, narrowly missing swimmers at the jam-packed beach. Two of the three aboard were taken to the hospital but are reported to be in stable condition. The pilot escaped uninjured.
The helicopter appeared to be autorotating, the maneuver that is the equivalent of an engine-out glide in an airplane. Because the helicopter has a limited amount of energy to use while still keeping the blades spinning and the descent rate survivable, the options for changing course once an aiming point is picked out are limited. In this case, it’s safe to say the pilot did a great job and got more than a little lucky.
One Twitter commenter claimed to have been in the surf when the helicopter crashed. When asked what the experience was like, he replied, “Well very scary – thought it was going to come down on us until we realized it was even closer to another group of people. Seemed like the pilot was doing his best to avoid the folks in the water.”
The FAA is investigating the crash.