An Omaha police helicopter crashed Friday morning while attempting to land at the Blair Municipal Airport.
Omaha Police Deputy Chief Kerry Neumann said the helicopter, known as Able-1, was landing at about 9:45 a.m. when it lost power and dropped approximately 40 to 50 feet to the ground. The helicopter landed hard, causing it to turn on its side.
Blair police and Fort Calhoun Fire and Rescue were dispatched to the crash, which occurred on a runway, at about 10 a.m.
The two pilots on board, Brian Yaghoutfam and Matt Baughman, sustained “very minor injuries,” Neumann said. They were taken to an area hospital to be checked out.
Yaghoutfam, who is a 12-year veteran of OPD's Air Support Unit, was piloting the helicopter, while Baughman, who has served with OPD for 14 years, was the tactical flight officer.
“We lucked out in this incident,” Neumann said. “The pilots are safe and they are fine.”
The Blair airport was closed while the helicopter, which sustained heavy damage, remained on the runway.
Blair City Administrator Rod Storm, who serves as the airport manager, said they were “hopeful” the airport would reopen by mid-afternoon Friday. A flight was scheduled to leave at 2 p.m.
Neumann said the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board had been notified of the crash and would be investigating. A cause for the crash was not immediately known. However, Neumann said it didn't appear weather was a factor in the incident.
“It will definitely be looked at from all avenues and agencies,” he said.
This is the second crash the air support unit has sustained this year. In April, one of the unit's three helicopters experienced a mechanical failure while taking off from the North Omaha Airport. The pilots were able to make an emergency landing in a field, but the tail of the helicopter wad severely damaged.
Neumann said Friday's incident did not involve the same helicopter. It was a Bell 206 Ranger, one of the unit's “newer” helicopters, he said.
The department is now down to one helicopter, which is currently undergoing maintenance. Neumann said OPD has been in contact with the Nebraska State Patrol and its air support unit in the event they are needed.
OPD's Air Support Unit moved to the Blair airport July 1 after the Omaha City Council approved a 10-year lease for the City of Blair-owned hangar in November. Renovations on the hangar, which cost approximately $1.26 million, began in January. The work, which included a 77,000-gallon tank for a fire suppression system, was completed in June.
This is the second helicopter crash in Washington County in the last month. In July, a pilot was injured when the crop-dusting helicopter he was operating crashed in a cornfield about a mile west of the airport.
The last incident at the airport was in May 2017 when an Iowa man died after his glider crashed while taking off from a grass runway.