A Lady of Hollywood in
The Crash of the "Airwolf" Helicopter
Near Halbeswig, Germany
June 6th, 1992
A Machine as a Muse...
The design of the Bell 222 helicopter was revolutionary
to the world of rotary wing aircraft. With
a light alloy structure, and a fuselage built around a large cabin, it could
seat two pilots and five or six passengers. The large main rotor with two
wide blades were made of steel with a honeycomb core, and the blades were held
to the rotor hub by standard Bell elastomeric bearings. The tail rotor is also
metal with two blades. A pair of 650 horsepower Lycoming LTS-101 engines powered
the copter, and were mounted side-by-side above the fuselage and have integral
particle separators. The fuel is contained in three tanks, one in the fuselage
and two in the sponsons into which the main landing gear members retract.
Such a modern aircraft called for celebration. And television producer Donald P. Bellisario found inspiration in its
design. In the mid-80s, a television
series was developed with an unusual concept – having a helicopter be the star.
In the vein of Knight Rider and Blue Thunder, Bellisario chose the Bell 222.
The Bell 222 used in the series, registered as
N3176S, was one of the last “222A” helicopters that Bell manufactured before the
release of the 222B model. Nevertheless, the owner of 76S – JetCopters
Incorporated of Van Nuys, California – modified the chopper as if it were
equipped with concealable machine guns, missiles, and an array of other weaponry
The series ran for 55 episodes (the first
two-hour TV movie) on the CBS network in the United States in 1984–1986 and an additional 24
episodes, with a new cast and production company, on the USA Network, in 1987, a
total of 79 episodes, and enjoyed moderate success. At the conclusion of the
series' run, the copter was repainted, its body kit modifications removed and
sold, and the copter sold to the German helicopter charter company, Hubschrauber-Sonder-Dienst (as known as HSD Luftrettung and Blue Helicopter
Alliance) in June of 1987, and assigned the registration number D-HHSD.
Angel of Mercy...
On the afternoon of Saturday, June 6th, 1992,
D-HHSD was flying a little girl suffering from heavy burns on a mercy mission
from Berlin to the Cologne University Burns Unit in Köln. After safely
delivering the girl, the helicopter and its crew of three was returning to
Berlin when they encountered unexpected weather. With the visibility reduced to
nearly 100 feet due to fog amidst a brewing thunderstorm, the copter's 42 year
old pilot must have struggled to navigate the wooded German mountainsides.
Unfortunately, at 2:30 in the afternoon, at a
speed of nearly 100 miles an hour, the helicopter impacted near a rock quarry
near Halbeswig. Its rotor blades clipped the tops of several tree, and then
struck the mountainside. A nearby farmer heard, during his work, a big bang, and
alerted emergency services. But, given the weather conditions, it took about an
hour before the rescuers could find the wreck site. When they arrived, they
found the helicopter was broken in half in the middle, the engine destroyed, and
the 3 occupants, including a 38 year old doctor and his 31 year old assistant,
all had been killed in the impact.
The forested area around the crash site was
locked down for nearly 7 hours. The fire department had to close several roads
near the site because not enough police. The police Dortmund and the Federal Air
Transport Authority Braunschweig started their investigation on late afternoon,
which continued into the following day. Afterwards, the crash site was released
the helicopter's owners, who salvaged the wreck. However, due to the
impassable terrain, some parts of the helicopter could only be snug out by air.
Three days after the crash, the Federal Air
Transport Authority concluded that human error was the cause of the crash.