Tour helicopter pilot makes split-second decision in emergency auto-rotation landing in Orlando

By: WFTV Web Desk

Updated:

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A tour helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing Thursday morning in a grassy median near the heart of Orlando's tourism corridor, the Orlando Fire Department said.

The incident was reported shortly before 10:30 a.m. at South Kirkman Road near West Sand Lake Road, firefighters said.

Photos: Tour helicopter makes hard landing in Orange County

A pilot and two passengers were aboard the helicopter when it landed. They were not hurt.

The pilot, Steve Kilcourse, who has 11 years of experience, told the Orlando Fire Department that the helicopter was 600 feet in the air when he heard a loud pop and the chopper lost power.

The helicopter's tail broke when it slammed into the ground.

Kilcourse told Channel 9 that he only had a few seconds to decide how to handle the situation. 

"From the time I heard the sound until the time we were on the ground was probably no more than 45 seconds," he said.

Using a process called auto-rotation, Kilcourse was able to control the helicopter, slow its descent and make a hard, but safe, landing.

Channel 9 Skywitness pilot Nick Christakos said it took a whole lot of skill to make the emergency landing, especially since Kilcourse couldn't pull up and try again if things got out of control.

"He only has one shot like that," Christakos said. "Because then the rotor blades will stop spinning."

Kilcourse said his training and experience kicked in when the helicopter lost power, but the landing was still a terrifying experience.

"I was shaking for a solid hour after we got down," he said.

By Thursday afternoon, though, Kilcourse was back in the air in a different helicopter taking passengers on tours over Orlando.



© 2017 Cox Media Group.

Next Up: