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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Top Gear Chopper Stopper

Ok, I'm not a helicopter pilot, & any technical reports on this don't appear to be surfacing anywhere, which is surprising considering the accident happened almost a year ago. The following video footage however has only just been released in the last 24 hours. Most media outlets showing the video describe what they see, but no one is saying what exactly went wrong, other than "mechanical failure" or that the pilot "lost control". Watch this:

Notice how early in the video, at about 13-14 seconds in, the pilot pulls up & performs a sharp turn to the left, pulling it off quite successfully. After the "race", he performs the same maneuver again, this time to the right. It's during this turn that the aircraft appears to continue straight for just a second or two at a high angle of bank, rather than complete the turn. It loses valuable height (it didn't have much to begin with), & then it appears the pilot is trying to level out the bank, desperate for the rotors to dig in & claw back up again. But there's not enough time, & not enough altitude. 

So what went wrong? Some sources say "mechanical error". One site quotes the pilot, John Lam, as saying,
“The accident was caused by a faulty flight control part known as a servo. This part controls the pitch mechanism of the rotor’s control which is why the helicopter made the turn it did.” (1)

I stress again that I am not a technical expert on the matter, so I cannot dispute or confirm the above statement. But from an observational point of view, it would seem that "the helicopter made the turn it did" because the pilot made it do it; not once, but twice. The turn which led to the accident was a carbon copy of the earlier turn at the start of the video which was performed flawlessly. No one doubts the experience of the veteran retired pilot & all are grateful he escaped without serious injury, but even heros have bad days sometimes. At that angle of bank, at that altitude, with a split second hesitation mid-turn, & it's all over.

As I said, everyone's just glad he was able to walk away from it. Here's further footage from inside the chopper & different ground angle.

If anyone has any further technical info on this, leave us a comment either here or on our facebook page via the link at the top right of the blog.

(1) http://www.wheels.ca/news/top-gear-helicopter-crashes-while-filming-stunt/

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