Twenty Years Ago Today: San Jose Helicopter Crash

sik_s-58t_1At about half past seven in the morning, a Sikorsky S-58 helicopter piloted by Richard Gleason was hard at work lifting air conditioning equipment onto the roof of the First American Title Guaranty Co in San Jose, CA, only a block away from City Hall.  A few minutes later, the tail rotor apparently failed, and the pilot found himself in a flying metal cage that was about to stop flying in a very sudden way. Witnesses reported that Gleason managed to angle the helicopter so that it struck only the roof of the building, rather than the side, which would have caused the walls to cave in and presumably multiple casualties. As it was, the roof was empty and the only person who died in the incident was Gleason himself, lost in the explosion as the helicopter crashed into the roof. Flying debris was minimised and not a single person on the ground was injured.

The FAA investigation later determined that the probable cause of the crash was inadequate pilot planning and preparation, leading to insufficient fuel in the helicopter.

Here's a news report from the time.