ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Two police helicopter pilots survive a scare in midair.
The St. Louis Metro Air Support officers spoke with FOX 2 after a duck strike last week.
It left the officers bloodied and took out much of their windshield. The duck was killed.
It had been a routine night. The officer/pilots were on patrol. It was around 7:30 p.m. It had just gotten dark. They didn’t even see the danger coming.
“We train for emergency procedures. We don’t necessarily train for a bird to come through the front windshield,” said St. Louis police pilot Bob Simons. “I kind of saw a flash out of my eye, the right side of my eye.”
Then he felt a rush of incoming air. The helicopter was traveling at about 100 knots at the time of the collision, he said. Broken plexiglass was swirling through the cockpit.
“We need to return to the police pad. We just had a bird strike,” they said in an emergency radio call to the Spirit Airport control tower.
The duck hit Simons’ partner, St. Charles County police pilot Doug Reinholz, in the head. The swirling shards of plexiglass cut Simons’ face. He had multiple lacerations.
He radioed the tower: “My nose is bleeding. I got hit in the face.”
“The pieces of plexiglass that came through, there were some really sharp edges. So, if they would have hit you just right, they could’ve done some damage to you,” Simons said.
Luckily, the duck hit Reinholz just as he looked down at a weather radar, sparing him a dangerous direct hit to his face. His helmet and visor protected him.
“It hit my helmet here, hit my visor, hit my face, then actually hit my chest up here, then went up,” Reinholz said.
There was also a sizeable hole in the plexiglass canopy above their heads. The duck was dead in the back of the aircraft. Reinholz was covered in its blood.
“I knew I was fine,” Reinholz said. “My next check was (Bob). He was piloting the aircraft … after that, it’s get the aircraft on the ground safely and get us both on the ground safely,” he said.
“We were lucky Doug’s head happened to be down (at the time of the collision). We were lucky it didn’t come through my side when I was at the controls and hit me in the face,” Simons said.
They’re just as grateful to be back in the air as they were to get back on the ground that night.
“I would have gone back up that night if the weather wasn’t bad. We would have gotten another aircraft and gone back up and did our job,” Simons said.
That’s true to form for partners who’ve been protecting St. Louis from the sky together for nine years and still counting.