FAA praises TEMSCO pilot after wetlands landing incident

Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A cruise ship passenger from Tyler, Texas, called home Monday first to say how excited she was to be headed to a helicopter ride to a glacier and later to praise the pilot after the helicopter lost power and landed abruptly, her father said.

"He was very calm and very assured and just knew what he was doing," Stephanie Van Dyke told her father, Mike McMullen of Woodlands, Texas.

Van Dyke "was excited they were still alive," McMullen said.

His daughter was on a TEMSCO helicopter that landed in the wetlands near Juneau International Airport shortly after noon Monday.

The helicopter came down from about 100 feet after taking off, according to company officials and Capital City Fire and Rescue, which extinguished a fire in the aircraft.

"The pilot did an excellent job of setting it down," said Jim Vuille, assistant manager of the Federal Aviation Administration's flight standards office at the Juneau airport Tuesday. "That was really quick thinking."

He said the pilot, Lowell Neshem, and six passengers from the cruise ship Oosterdam were reported to be uninjured in the incident.

Investigators have concluded that catastrophic engine failure is to blame for the helicopter losing power, Vuille said. To help determine how the engine failed, it will be sent back to the manufacturer in Texas, he added.

McMullen said his daughter told him that when the engine went out, the pilot simply did his job.

He said everyone got out before the fire started. Capital City Fire and Rescue had 28 firefighters on the scene.

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