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Local News

Montecito Flooding Rescue Helicopter Strikes Another While Landing in Van Nuys for Repairs

A Santa Barbara County helicopter that spent all day Jan. 9 rescuing victims of the deadly Montecito flooding and mud flows apparently ran into trouble while landing at Van Nuys Airport three days later. The county Air Support Unit chopper struck a parked helicopter with its tail rotor, causing damage to both aircraft.

There were no injuries in the collision, which is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the county Fire Department’s Copter 308 was making a landing maneuver when the incident occurred Jan. 12. Pilot Matt Udkow had flown the helicopter, a Bell UH-1H, to Van Nuys for repairs.

No other details were available.

“NTSB investigators will use data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator, and will not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report,” according to a statement posted on the FAA website.

Santa Barbara County officials said the aircraft became “so saturated with rain that the helicopter’s electrical system started malfunctioning and the aircraft had to conduct an emergency landing onto the Birnam Wood Golf Course.”

Copter 308, with Udkow at the controls and two crew members, operated from dawn to dusk Jan. 9 and conducted multiple rescues of people trapped in the disaster.

After sitting for two days to dry out, the helicopter was flown to Van Nuys for repairs.

“When they were landing in Van Nuys they had a rotor strike with another helicopter,” fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni told Noozhawk.

Damage to both helicopters was minor, he added, but the actual cost of the damage to each aircraft was not available.

Expenses will be attributed to the Montecito disaster since the helicopter was still assigned at the time of the rotor strike.

Copter 308 will be down four weeks, Zaniboni said, adding that it also was due for annual maintenance.

“They’re going to take care of everything all at once,” he said.

A “green sheet,” or informational summary report of serious accidents and incidents, is being prepared but is not complete, he said.

The collision occurred near the Rotor-Craft Support Inc. facility and left another UH-1 helicopter with damage.

Rotor-Craft Support president Phil DiFiore, who also serves as director of maintenance, said he considers the damage minor but could not provide an estimate.

“It’s still under evaluation at the moment,” he added.

He referred other questions to county Fire Department representatives.

The Air Support Unit has five helicopters and an airplane after separate aviation units for the fire and sheriff’s departments were merged.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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