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Utah AirMed Helicopter Makes Emergency Landing on Interstate Highway

During a response to a single-car rollover on Interstate 84 in Utah this week, a medical chopper made a “hard landing” and clipped a nearby street sign in the process.

In aviation terms, a hard landing is when an air vehicle touches the ground with greater force than in a normal landing. This can result in bouncing and rocking from side-to-side or front-to-back. Witnesses said the helicopter rose about 10 feet in the air and looked like it was about to tip over on its side during the landing.

The victim of the crash had rolled three times off the highway, hitting a tree, after falling asleep while driving and over-correcting with the steering wheel upon waking. The victim appeared to be injured seriously enough for the fast-responding firefighters to call in a medical helicopter transport from the nearby University of Utah Hospital.

Photo Credit: Tom Smart, Deseret News

The pilot of the AirMed helicopter immediately killed the engine after the rotor hit the road sign and the helicopter completed its landing safely. However, the tail rotor had come off its gear, which meant it could not be flown out. The victim of the car crash then had to be transported by ground ambulance to the nearest hospital.

After the ambulance picked up the driver, it took several hours for the grounded helicopter to be transported away on a flatbed semi-truck for repairs.

The driver was reportedly in stable condition the next day. Additionally, and thankfully, none of the crew inside the helicopter – a pilot, a nurse, and a paramedic — were injured during the hard landing.

An example of one type of helicopter hard landing:

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