Dramatic surveillance video from two cameras and three different angles showed the moment when a helicopter hit the ground on Ft. Street Wednesday afternoon in downtown Honolulu and crashed against a parked car.
The Robinson R22 Beta chopper belonging to Mauna Loa Helicopters skidded past the surveillance cameras at Kukui Plaza, a 32 floor condominium with two towers.
"I was shocked that it made it down through Ft. Street there without really killing anybody or themselves," said Kukui Plaza General Manager Michael Lakey. "It was amazing."
The chopper hit the pavement at exactly 3:19 p.m. when people are out and about and using the sidewalks.
You can see the chopper skidding past a camera before it crashes into a car and white smoke billows upwards.
Someone walks out onto Fort Street for a closer look.
We showed the video to attorney T.J. Lane who has extensive flight time behind the controls of a Robinson R22, the type of chopper piloted by Julia Link.
"It was absolutely amazing given the confined area in which the pilot had to land the helicopter because she was out of fuel, or not getting any fuel. The auto-rotation she entered was brilliant," said Lane.
Lane said a chopper pilot only has two-to-three seconds to enter auto-rotation before the aircraft falls like a rock.
Operating the controls requires steady nerve, as well as both feet and hands.
Lane estimates at an altitude of 3,000 feet, Link only had 45 to 50 seconds from the time the engine died to the time she hit the ground.
"This pilot was 30 years old. The skill level seems to be somebody who has been flying for a much longer period of time. It was absolutely amazing," said Lane.
Federal Aviation Administration officials obtained copies of the video Thursday afternoon, which will be part of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation.
Link and her passenger, 71-year-old Karl Hedberg of Aerial Photography Hawaii, barely suffered a scratch. Both walked away from the crash and refused medical treatment.