An investigation into the helicopter crash that severely wounded a Little Rock Police Department pilot found no pilot error and said the incident was caused by a strong gust of wind.
Investigators said pilot Bill Denio, an aviator for more than 46 years who had logged more than 8,000 hours of flight time, had no intention of flying the Air-3 Bell helicopter on Aug. 16, but planned to idle the aircraft to test a new battery that had recently been installed.
At approximately 10:20 a.m., a wind flowing south struck the aircraft, causing the nose of the helicopter to lurch off of the dolly and become briefly airborne as Denio tried to stabilize it, the report said. The helicopter's rear point caught beneath the dolly it was originally sitting on, rotating the aircraft and causing it to crash, investigators said.
Two officers who were at the hangar at the time of the crash had to cut Denio, who was harnessed into the aircraft, out in order to render first aid until an ambulance could arrive. Denio was severely injured in the crash, with multiple broken ribs, a separated sternum and a brain bleed. He has since not been able to recall the accident, the report said.
The helicopter crashed near 10400 Ironton Cutoff Road, the department's aviation hangar, according to an initial police report.
The $500,000 helicopter, which was irreparably damaged in the accident, was primarily used to monitor major events in Little Rock and had been flown for 25.7 hours between Aug. 20, 2017 and the crash. The Little Rock Police Department employs four licensed, part-time pilots.