Pilot Dan Alpiner started his flight on Oct. 11 without a co-pilot, gained one mid-air for about 10 minutes, and then completed the rest of his flight alone.
Sound odd? Alpiner thought so, too.
Alpiner was helping drop water on the Creek Fire in Fresno, California, when an owl somehow flew in a 16-inch square open window in the side of the helicopter and landed on the co-pilot seatback.
“Please don’t attack me,” Alpiner remembered thinking, according to KSEE-TV.
“It kinda spooked me for a quick second there and we just kinda locked eyes there and the thing was chill and looked around and I was like all right buddy, you are going to work with me for a little bit.”
It stayed for a few drops, around 10 minutes total, and then it took off.
“It basically just got out where it got in,” Alpiner said. “Right when I was doing another drop … looked out and kind of saw him fly off.”
SHOCKING NEWS: This owl landed inside this helicopter while it was doing water drops on the Creek Fire.
Pilot Dan Alpiner:
“It’s an unexplainable and magical miracle for it to stay with you for several water drops, then leave just as it arrived – safe and unannounced.” pic.twitter.com/o7m3BgX3l8
— Mederios Babb (@mederiosbabb) October 14, 2020
“I mean we get to see a lot of cool things doing this work, but that was something that, I will take that with me for a long time.”
It seems impossible that a bird of any kind could land in a moving helicopter, and American Helicopter flight instructor Matthew Dowdy said the only way it could have worked out is if both were going the same speed.
“It would have to be perfect timing,” he said. “As far as the bird going in there, it seems crazy. I guess it is just a daring bird.”
“It’s unheard of to have it enter while the helo is in-flight.”
“It’s an unexplainable and magical miracle for it to stay with you for several water drops, then leave just as it arrived – safe and unannounced.”
The last line, credited to Alpiner on reporter Mederios Babb’s tweet about the incident, is a sentiment many echo when hearing the story and seeing the photo — the whole thing is a bit magical and miraculous, and if it weren’t for the photos, it would probably be unbelievable.
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