“I was flying a relatively short tour with three passengers in an R44 aircraft over some vineyards near the airport I was flying out of. The passengers were all pretty cool and relaxed through the flight so naturally, I was as well. The person upfront with me was very interested in what I was doing and how everything worked. He had a million questions and I was happy to answer them all. 

When the tour was almost over and I was on about half a mile final when the clutch light turned on. For those not familiar with the clutch light on Robinson helicopters, it’s pretty normal and comes on whenever the clutch is adjusting, especially in colder climates. It is completely normal to come on for a few seconds and then go away, no big deal. However, if it stays on for more than 10 seconds, then we’re potentially in big trouble.

So the clutch light came on while I was mid-sentence. I subconsciously started counting and somewhere around seven, I stopped talking. I flipped the pilot’s ISO (International Organization for Standardization), practically in denial that this was about to happen. When I got to 10, I pulled the clutch circuit breaker. At the same time, I felt just the slightest tail shudder so I pushed for some extra airspeed and mentally prepared to do an auto power-off landing. Luckily, we made it to the ground fine and I never lost power. 

After I set it down, the person upfront looked at me and said, ‘What was that all about?’

So I just said, ‘I thought you guys would enjoy a little excitement at the end.’

They thought it was awesome so I sent them on their merry way, none the wiser. After they walked away, I opened it up to see only one of the four clutch belts still in place. It was the scariest day that those folks will never know they had.”