Helicopter pilot talks about surviving crash - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Helicopter pilot talks about surviving crash

Posted: Updated:
Eiki Miyasato Eiki Miyasato
Richard Schuman Richard Schuman

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KHNL) -  A day after he crash landed his helicopter on Wiliwilinui Trail in Waialae Iki, Makani Kai Helicopters pilot Eiki Miyasato talked exclusively to KHNL/K-5 about the experience, and how he managed to escape injury to himself and his passenger.

Miyasato says divine intervention and a little bit of luck allowed him to land the chopper as safely as he could, without letting it fall down the hillside.  But others are praising his quick thinking and calling him a hero.

The damaged Makani Kai A-Star helicopter moves from its crash site at Wiliwilinui Trail back to its home at Honolulu International Airport early Tuesday afternoon.  Miyasato, 55, landed the chopper on a narrow portion of the ridge after it suddenly lost power Monday at about 10:40 am.

"I thank God for it," said Miyasato.  "I did what I was supposed to do to save myself and my passenger."

Getting the helicopter to the ground was only half the challenge.  Miyasato also had to act quickly to prevent the aircraft from tumbling two thousand feet into the valley.

"Make sure that we landed safely, and split second reaction would be keep the aircraft and myself and ourselves up on top of the hill," he said.

Miyasato and his passenger Cris Caughill, a 38-year-old chief engineer for Cox Radio, walked away from the crash with minor scrapes and cuts.  Some call Miyasato a hero.

"The pilot thankfully was very quick, and kept us on the ridge," said Caughill. "If we had been five feet literally in either direction, the results would have been very, very bad."

"I never thank God so much but this particular situation we had, I have to," said Miyasato, with a laugh.  "I'm happy Cris was okay, and myself is okay, and we didn't involve anyone else."

Miyasato says safety is the number one priority.

"Always keep that in mind," he said. "What if?  What if, especially when you go up on top of the mountains and do special missions."

A day after his brush with death, Miyasato remains humble about his quick thinking at Wiliwilinui Trail.

"Do you think of yourself as a hero?" asked KHNL.

"No," said Miyasato. "I mean, we did our job. I did my job, and that's always the goal.  Make sure that if something does happen, we make sure we save people's lives first."

Miyasato was back at work Tuesday, eager to go back doing what he loves to do.

And Miyasato is also winning praise from the president and owner of Makani Kai Helicopters.  Richard Schuman says Miyasato did an outstanding job during Monday's crash, and credits his quick thinking, and adds Miyasato did exactly what he was trained to do.

"My personal belief is if you believe in Jesus or Buddah or Allah, or whoever you believe in, when it's your time, it's your time. And yesterday was not their time and we're extremely happy they're still here today," said Schuman.  "Like any type of sport or event that you're in, training has to become instinctive and to become instinctive, you have to do it repetitively. And when the pilot feels something wrong, he reacts without having to give it a lot of thought."

Makani Kai pilots go through extensive training, including an annual training that focuses on emergency procedures, like engine shutdown.  Schuman says Miyasato is his most senior, most experienced pilot.