MISSOULA - After spending more than five and a half hours in the Clark Fork River, a helicopter made it safely to the Missoula Airport and to wait for repair.
Forrest Que, with Minuteman Aviation, brought in a second helicopter to lift the stranded craft out of a section of the river about four feet deep.
"He tried to get some clean are and things went to heck in a hurry. Helicopters are great machines, but when things go bad they go bad in a hurry," Que said.
Que said the pilot of the Bell model 206 l-3 helicopter, has more than 50 years of flying experience and was the lone occupant of the craft.
The man had just dropped off an instructor, ready to renew his annual certification, on a sand bar slightly down river.
"The helicopter starts settling in its own water wash. The more you pull in power the more power you ask out of the ship the faster it sinks, so the pilot was attempting to get clean air," Que said.
Missoula Rural Fire, County Sheriff's, and Search and Rescue responded quickly to the scene and helped the pilot to safety.
Property owner John Wilhelm said planes and helicopters regularly use his land for practice flights and this is not the first time an emergency landing was necessary.
"A lot of them practice out here because I've got an airstrip. Where helicopters and planes can land and practice. They practice in the river quite a bit."
At the end of the day, Wilhelm said, the most important thing is that everyone makes it out safely.