Destrehan software guru survives helicopter crash

Heather R. Breaux
April 16, 2008 at 3:53 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Destrehan software guru survives helicopter crash
Destrehan native Jack Cali didn’t think twice when he traded racing Corvettes around a Nevada speedway for a helicopter-style view of the western United States.

Cali, who designs top-of-the-line car computer systems, had not one disagreeable inkling or reservation about taking the air-guided tour and that’s probably because he had no idea the helicopter would take a nose dive.

Earlier this month, Cali traveled to the Spring Mountain Race Track in Pahrump, Nevada for a little rest, relaxation and racing with longtime friend Quinton - better known as “Q” from the MTV car-overhaul series Pimp My Ride.

The highlight of the day was guaranteed to be the fast-paced track that lay ahead, but when one of the instructors from a local aviation school offered to give Cali a helicopter ride he jumped at the chance.

“Everything was going great until we almost finished with the flight,” Cali said. “We were going in for a landing when the helicopter’s clutch gave way.”

Cali says that although the group took a long, hard drop from over 300 feet in the air, and landed sideways in the desert sand, the pilot maintained his composure and did all that he could to keep the situation under control.

“The pilot saved our lives,” Cali said. “If he wouldn’t have stayed calm we all would have hit the ground at 100 mph and the helicopter would have exploded.”

Cali says that the pilot was able to quickly use two standard crash procedures and adds that if a pilot acts correctly during a mechanical failure, it is possible to have a smoother emergency landing.

“After the landing, we managed to crawl out  of the helicopter’s window with only bruised and twisted joints,” said Cali. “And to stand up and take pictures afterwards probably doesn’t happen very often.”

Cali, who was seated in the front, recalls the landing as being “not too bad” until the front legs of the helicopter dug into the sand and stopped the aircraft from sliding into a resting position.

Instead the helicopter flipped over face first with the windshield crumbling in front of Cali and the pilot.

“The fall and crash were nothing compared to thinking about what would happen if the rotor hit the ground,” said Cali. “It could have ultimately broke into pieces and sliced through all the wreckage, including the passengers.”

Cali says that the crash has so far been ruled strictly as a mechanical failure and points out the helicopter was well kept.

“The pilot was top notch and knew everything he needed to fly properly,” said Cali. “And the craft we were in was perfectly maintained and had just been serviced.”
Cali now warns others to keep in mind how dangerous a helicopter crash can be.

“If you decide to ride in a helicopter, keep in mind that once you’re going down there is almost nothing that can be done to reverse the situation,” said Cali. “Airplanes have a gliding system, whereas a helicopter turns into a falling rock when there is major failure.

“I think that ‘Q’ and I met God today, but his office was already full,” said Cali.

View other articles written Heather R. Breaux

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