Authorities say it is lucky everyone walked away Wednesday after a helicopter pilot made an emergency landing west of Payson.
This is the fifth aircraft crash in Rim Country in the past year, the most seen in more than 30 years, said Lt. Tim Scott with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.
The Arizona Public Service-leased helicopter was shuttling five people to Flagstaff for a meeting after taking off from Scottsdale around 9 a.m.
Halfway into the flight, the chopper reportedly lost power and the pilot had to “autorotate down to the ground,” Scott said.
Television footage showed the copter landed hard on its skids, the tail breaking off.
Five passengers were uninjured, but a Department of Public Safety Ranger helicopter airlifted the pilot to a Valley hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
“The helicopter is pretty well banged up, but he got it onto the ground and nobody was extremely hurt,” Scott said.
APS sent another helicopter to transport the passengers out since there is no road access to the area. The site of the crash is roughly six miles into the wilderness, west of Doll Baby Ranch.
One of those on board was an APS employee. The other passengers worked for other companies, but APS would not reveal their identities. The group was headed to an economic development meeting in Flagstaff, said Damon Gross, an APS spokesperson.
“The good news is everyone walked away and (the pilot) is going to be OK,” Gross said.
“We haven’t had this many aircraft wrecks in the past 30 years,” Scott said.
Recent crashes in 2012
• On Sept. 13, three men took off from Mesa’s Falcon Field on a training mission in a single-engine Piper Archer. The plane crashed into the side of the Mogollon Rim, north of Strawberry near Calf Pen Canyon, killing all three.
• On Oct. 27, an experimental amateur-built JeffAir Barracuda was substantially damaged when all three landing gear collapsed upon touchdown at the Payson Airport. Neither the pilot/owner nor his passenger was injured.
• On Dec. 7, three people survived when their helicopter crashed into Roosevelt Lake. The group was on a sightseeing tour of the area when the pilot looked down to check the instruments. When he looked outside again, he experienced a feeling of mental confusion, similar to vertigo and the helicopter crashed, according to an FAA investigation. Boaters pulled the passengers from the water.
• On Dec. 18, a 28-year-old Mesa pilot died when his plane crashed into the Mazatzal Mountains south of town, northwest of the Barnhardt Trailhead. Inclement weather had forced the pilot to re-route, but he never made it to Phoenix, crashing into the side of North Peak in a twin-engine Piper.