An Army helicopter made an unscheduled visit to Koko Head Elementary School yesterday morning when a faulty indicator light prompted the pilot to touch down on a sports field.
"It was a very exciting way to start school," fifth-grader Michael Miller said.
The Black Hawk helicopter was carrying nine Schofield Barracks soldiers and a crew of four to the Big Island when it made the emergency landing just before 8:30 a.m.
No one was injured.
Following an inspection, the helicopter was flown back to Wheeler Army Airfield at about 10:40 a.m. Before it did, the soldiers let some students look around the helicopter and try on gear.
B.J. Weiner, Fort Shafter spokeswoman, said a "microchip malfunctioned," triggering a warning indicator light on the helicopter’s instrument panel.
"Army regulations require the pilot to land the helicopter at the first available place," Weiner said. "In this case it was the school’s baseball field."
The helicopter, from the 25th Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, was ferrying soldiers to Pohakuloa Training Area when it was forced to land.
"The pilots landed the helicopter safely in an area well clear of any school buildings or personnel," an Army news release said.
Army Lt. Col. John Miller, whose wife, Donna, teaches at Koko Head Elementary, said he saw the UH-60 Black Hawk "hovering and flying very low" while he was completing his morning kayak paddle.
His son, Michael, sent him a photo of the downed helicopter on his cell phone, and Miller drove to the school to check on his family and the helicopter’s crew.
Miller, who is assigned to the surgeon’s office at Fort Shafter, said he talked with the pilot, who told him he had to make "a controlled landing" after noticing a warning light on his instrument panel.
Michael Miller said, "I was walking to my class and saw the helicopter flying and thought it was very low."
After it landed, Michael said he and his teacher went to the helicopter to find out what had happened.
Fire Department officials said none of their emergency equipment or personnel was called to the landing site.