Emergency helicopter landing makes for unforgettable birthday

For Baker Dyck it was a 10th birthday he will never forget.

The youngster and his family took a scenic helicopter flight over Grand Cayman to celebrate the milestone on Thursday.

But a fun trip had a frightening end when the helicopter had to make an emergency landing after experiencing mechanical difficulties.

Jerome Begot, pilot and owner of Cayman Islands Helicopters, said the incident was caused by a problem with a component in the tail rotor.

He said it was a relatively minor issue and making the landing was no problem for an experienced pilot.

Baker’s mom Nicola Holdsworth, who was also on board with her husband Nathan Dyck and their six-year-old daughter Mary, said the helicopter had aborted the landing at the downtown helipad after the pilot reported a problem with the tail rotor. Her children were in the cockpit as the aircraft attempted two more aborted landings at the Owen Roberts International Airport before making a forced landing and coming to a skidding stop on the tarmac surrounded by fire engines.

The incident caused a full emergency alert at the airport and delayed several flights Thursday.

Mr. Begot said he had chosen to land at the airport as a precautionary measure. The first landing effort at the airport was a precautionary fly by, he said. On the second occasion he had planned to land on the grass but decided, on approach, that it was too soft. On the third occasion he landed the helicopter successfully.

“For a pilot with 30 years experience it is no problem,” he said.

Ms. Holdsworth said it has been a scary moment but praised the pilot for his cool handling of the situation.

“We were so lucky. Jerome is a seriously skilled pilot,” she said. “I definitely was not so cool. It was scary. I’ve never been in that kind of situation before.

“My ten-year-old was sitting next to the pilot and he had a bird’s-eye view of the whole thing. He understood what was happening so he was a little bit scared. We are all a bit weary now from all the adrenaline.” Aside from the bumpy ending, she said it had been an amazing trip.

“It was definitely a memorable birthday, that is for sure.”

Mr. Begot is waiting for a replacement component and the helicopter should be back in action next week.

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