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Helicopter's hard landing in Hilo came after low-fuel emergency

An NTSB report offers new details in the July 25 incident

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 6:27 p.m. HST, Oct 23, 2013

A tour helicopter that made a hard landing near Hilo Airport on July 25 broke its right front landing strut on impact, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

The landing, in which the helicopter tipped onto its right side in a field of grass, also damaged part of the tailboom and belly skin, says the report, issued Tuesday.

The pilot, Kyuwon Lee, 42, and four passengers, a family from Lucas, Texas, near Dallas, were uninjured and exited through the left side doors. They declined medical attention.

The McDonnell Douglas 369E, owned by K&S Helicopters Inc. of Kailua-Kona dba Paradise Helicopters, left Hilo on a round-trip tour flight at 12:43 p.m., but Lee aborted the tour when he noticed his fuel was low, the report says. At the time, the copter was at an altitude of 1,500 feet.

The pilot requested and received priority handling at the airport, but the engine quit before he could make it and he "autorotated" or maneuvered onto an uneven field off the approach end of runway 3. The right front landing gear collapsed as it rolled on its side.

The report does not address the fuel issue, but says there was no mechanical malfunction. The aircraft's last inspection was on July 10.

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