HONOLULU — A descent from 2,500 feet and a hard helicopter landing interrupted travel plans for an Illinois family of six on a Make-A-Wish trip to Maui.
The Fraser family from Belleville and the pilot of the Eurocopter AS350 walked away without injury after the hard but safe landing Tuesday.
“All the passengers and pilot are fine,” said Ross Scott, owner of Sunshine Helicopters. “In fact, the passengers have rescheduled for another flight.”
The trip was for Anne Marie Fraser, 17, who is battling Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.
“Her wish was to come to Hawaii,” said her mother, Susanne. “And she picked Maui as her island.”
She was with her mother, father and sisters, who are ages 13, 15 and 18.
The pilot lifted off just before 10 a.m. from Kahului Airport for a tour of Waihee Valley. About 10 minutes into the flight, the helicopter experienced mechanical failure, Scott said.
The helicopter was over water, Susanne Fraser said.
“A horn went off in the helicopter, like a honking noise,” she said. “Me and my husband kind of looked at each other like that was that.”
The pilot told the passengers they were at an altitude where he could control the glide. He turned toward land and made an emergency landing on a grassy bluff.
“He was at about 2,500 feet, so he . turned toward a safe place to land,” Scott said. “The pilot did exactly what he’s supposed to do — just land the aircraft by auto rotating and setting down.”
Autorotation means disengaging the engine from the main rotor system. Rotor blades move by the upward flow of air as the helicopter descends.
The helicopter landed hard in 8 feet of elephant grass, which cushioned the landing, Scott said.
No one on board required medical attention, Maui firefighters said.