Warning: The videos within this article are graphic in nature and may not be suitable for all viewers.
A pilot and CEO of American Bank of Montana, 65-year-old Bruce Erickson, died alongside his friend, 60-year-old Wayne Lewis, when the helicopter Erickson was piloting spun out of control on the tarmac. Erickson was flying the new helicopter for the first time without an instructor and attempted four separate landings before the fourth attempt proved fatal by sending the helicopter spinning out of control and eventually bursting into flames. The four landing attempts and the fatal crash were all captured on video by the McLellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California, and show the pilot as he struggled to land his new aircraft. Numerous witnesses also captured the horrifying moments of the crash on their cell phones.
The Daily Mail reports that Bruce Erickson, the beloved CEO with American Bank of Montana, had recently purchased a helicopter and had only logged nine hours of flight time on it prior to the crash. Those nine hours were allegedly flown with an instructor, and the fatal crash occurred during the pilot’s first attempt to fly the aircraft alone without an instructor present. However, Erickson was not alone during the first flight. The man brought along his friend, Wayne Lewis, who was also killed during the horrific crash that left the helicopter spinning out of control on the tarmac as emergency crews responded to the scene.
According to Fox 5 San Diego, the pilot’s agonizing attempts to land the helicopter took place over a four and a half minute ordeal, in which the man attempted to land the helicopter four separate times.
“[Erickson] made three aborted attempts to land his Airbus AS350 at the Carlsbad general-aviation facility late on the afternoon of Nov. 18 before its tail rotor hit the runway, causing the copter to lurch into a deadly ground spin that tore it apart and continued for more than five minutes, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.”
In the report, it was noted during one of the first attempts to land, Erickson partially landed on the helipad but began to violently rock back and forth. As a result, the chokes that hold the helipad in place dislodged. Erickson lifted from the pad and landed back down at which point he was straddling the runway and the helipad. After realizing he was not going to make it onto the helipad, he lifted back into the air so that airport crew re-secured the helipad and Erickson made a number of additional attempts to land.
The final time, the aircraft came down partially on the pad in a similar fashion to the first unsuccessful attempt. However, as the helicopter rocked back and forth violently, it spun 180 degrees and began to tilt. As it tilted, the tail rotor and vertical stabilizer struck the ground and separated, causing the helicopter to enter an uncontrollable spin on the tarmac. Fellow pilots say the helicopter was spinning with such force that it was likely the pilot and passenger were unconscious when the helicopter burst into flames.
In addition to the three cell phone videos included in this article, the full incident was also captured on surveillance video from the airport. The video allegedly shows the four attempts made by the pilot and the subsequent crash. However, the video taken from the airport surveillance has not yet been released to the public.
It was noted that though Erickson only had 9 hours logged on the new helicopter, he was not new to flying aircraft. Erickson had logged more than 25,000 hours of flight time and was able to fly different airplanes and helicopters, but was practicing landing his new helicopter, a Bell 407, at the time of the crash.
[Image via YouTube]