Archive for Thursday, January 4, 2007

Amateur-built helicopter crashes in creek; pilot injured

January 4, 2007


A De Soto couple in an experimental, amateur-built helicopter crashed Wednesday in a rural Douglas County creek bed, apparently after a mechanical failure.

But even after falling 1,500 feet, both passengers survived.

The pilot, James L. Dohrman, 45, was flown to Kansas University Hospital with injuries that police said weren't life-threatening. His wife, Miya M. Dohrman, 47, was not seriously injured.

They had been flying in a RotorWay "Exec 162F" kit-built helicopter owned by James Dohrman and built in 2001, according to a Kansas Highway Patrol report and Federal Aviation Administration records. RotorWay, based in Chandler, Ariz., sells helicopter kits for about $67,000, according to the company's Web site.

About 3 p.m., the helicopter was flying about 1,500 feet above the eastern edge of Douglas County when James Dohrman heard a "bang" noise, according to the highway patrol's report.

"He heard a loud knock in the rear of the craft," Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Casey Simoneau said.

The helicopter crashed soon afterward in a pasture north of U.S. Highway 56 between East 2200 Road and East 2300 Road.

Miya Dorhman reported the crash. When police arrived at 3:19 p.m., they found her outside waving them down from a field as the helicopter sat upside down in a nearby creek bed.

"It just took a little while to find her, to get her oriented to where she was," said Lt. Kari Wempe, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.

Simoneau said Miya Dorhman told investigators that her husband had flown such helicopters for more than 20 years.


SteelHorseRider 11 years, 5 months ago

You are mistaken on many points but mostly the old wives-tale that helicopters become rocks if the engine stops.

Helicopters have excellent "glide" properties when the engine fails. The transmission (and hence the rotor) is built to automatically disengage if the engine quits running. A helicopter is as maneuverable as an airplane in this condition and can be landed safely with proper pilot skill. It is called an autorotation.

Now if the rotor stops turning, then you become a rock.

Mr. Dohrman obviously knew what he is doing or both he and his wife would have been in serious trouble.

Personally having flown helicopters for more than 20 years, I do agree with you on the homebuilt comment whether it is a helicopter or an airplane, although again I am sure Mr. Dorhman had the necessary training and skills to build his aircraft.


Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 5 months ago

glad to hear they are both going to be ok fast recavery to both.

Shelby 11 years, 5 months ago

Thanks SteelHorseRider for setting-straight one of the many armchair experts on this site.

It used to be the case that one needn't have any sort of license to operate these kit that still the case?

Ragingbear 11 years, 5 months ago

This is why you don't build stuff at home that is best left up to professionals with proper equipment and training.

Helicopters are worse than planes, as a small plane has a certain degree of gliding and such should the engines fail. This gives the pilot time to either fix the problem, or bail out.

A Helicoptor, in addition to having a cruising altitude of only a few thousand feet or less, basically turns into a rock if the blades stop, leaving no time for bail out, or repairs.

Shelby 11 years, 5 months ago

(i don't mean that you, Ragingbear, are an "armchair expert" necessarily, I just meant that there's a lot of that type of posturing on this site....)

Steve Mechels 11 years, 5 months ago

Another good thing about helicopters is that if you have an engine failure you don't need a runway to land on. I know as I have had one engine failure and have done literally 100s of pratice autorotations.

MightyMouse 11 years, 5 months ago

Shelby: Nope. To fly a kitplane, you need the same type of license you'd

MightyMouse 11 years, 5 months ago

Ack, hit enter too soon. To fly a kitplane, you need the same type of license you'd need to fly a factory-built plane.

compmd 11 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Ramirez, that is inflammatory and a load of crap. There are thousands of experimental type aircraft flying around just fine. By the way, military aircraft owned by private citizens are also experimental type rated. Interesting, eh? Don't try playing the safety card knowing that there are numerous people on this board who can trump it with knowledge and experience. If the pilot was able to build and fly this helicopter successfully for so long, he knows what he is doing.

The quality of autorotation in a helicopter can vary significantly, depending on several factors. Obviously, one factor is what the engine speed was prior to engine failure. Also, the efficiency of the transmission. However a very important (and not yet mentioned) factor is the mass of the blades; the inertia will keep the blades spinning longer, slowing your descent. Further explanation on this topic (such as material selection, blade airfoil, number of blades, lift, lift lost due to fuselage in rotorwash) would require knowledge of aerodynamics and structural dynamics, and I'm not going there today, folks.

MightyMouse, that isn't exactly true. Light Sport classified aircraft have easier requirements for pilots. Specifically, a license to fly an LSA requires less time and does not require an FAA medical evaluation.

I'm not an aerospace engineer, but sometimes I play one at work.

sublime 11 years, 5 months ago

"Amateur-built helicopter crashes in creek; pilot injured".............Imagine that.

Steve Mechels 11 years, 5 months ago

Oh and BTW Mr_Ramirez, as I recall John Denver ran out of fuel, it was not an aircraft problem.

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