By Victor O'Brien

Killeen Daily Herald

Two pilots escaped serious injury when their helicopter crashed Wednesday at Skylark Field in Killeen.

A Hughes 269A helicopter crashed at 5:15 p.m. The helicopter was in the middle of autorotation emergency training exercises about 200 feet above the ground when the crash occurred.

While the helicopter was in the air, the engine was shut down, and the aircraft lost ground speed. When the engine did not return, the helicopter hit the ground, causing a skid to break and the helicopter to tip on its side, Killeen Fire Chief Jerry Gardner said.

Autorotation exercises involve shutting off the engine and using rotors and wind to make a safe landing, according to a flight training Web site. These exercises are considered part of basic pilot training.

Carroll Smith, Killeen Police Department spokeswoman, said the helicopter is privately owned by Texas Star Aviation, which has a hangar at Skylark Field.

"When the plane went down, possibly one of the skids collapsed, and that may have caused it to fall over on its side," Smith said.

Gardner said the Federal Aviation Administration was notified. He added that he expects the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the crash based on the damage.

"With this type of severe damage, the NTSB normally comes and investigates a crash of this magnitude, but certainly that's their call," Gardner said.

The pilot instructor and licensed pilot in the helicopter were evaluated, refused transport to a hospital and reported only minor injuries, Gardner said.

The airfield was closed from 5:15 to 6 p.m., Smith said.

Texas Department of Public Safety, Killeen and Harker Heights police departments, Killeen Fire Department and Killeen Aviation Administration officials responded to the crash.

Contact Victor O'Brien at or (254) 501-7468.

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