Military helicopter makes emergency landing next to Alexandria school

Going back to school wasn't exactly on the flight plan for the seven person crew on an Air Force helicopter Thursday, but that's what happened.

The Huey helicopter on a routine training mission from Joint Base Andrews made an emergency landing at William Ramsay Elementary School. It's not something you see every day on the school playground.

"We got an indication that there could potentially be a problem with the helicopter," said U.S. Air Force Captain Joe Evans, who was piloting the chopper.

At a recreation center next door, Elisha Jones was surprised to hear the sound of a helicopter so close. "I didn't pay it too much attention and just kept doing what I was doing inside and shortly after I looked out and saw a helicopter on the playground and I was like wowwwww!" Jones said.

The pilot put the chopper down on an empty field. No kids were outside at the time. The emergency landing was done as a precaution.

"We happened to be right over the field when it happened. It's a good place to set down and that's what we did," said Capt. Evans.

By all accounts it appeared to be a perfect landing. "I think they did an excellent job. This space is not really big but they landed it right in the middle," said Jones.

A few minutes after the chopper touched down, a class came out for recess. Teachers kept the kids back, so the helicopter crew could take care of business, but then the pilot took some time to give the kids an impromptu lesson.

"Most of them wanted to know if I was in the military, if I was the pilot and what happened," said Capt. Evans.

The Huey stayed on the ground for three hours, while a maintenance crew arrived to check it out and clear it for takeoff. Two-year-old Jamilla and her dad watched from the playground. "I thought it was like an independent film or something like that. I didn't know what was going on," her dad said.

They headed back to Andrews safely. Perhaps the unexpected visit will be an inspiration at the school for a future pilot or two. "One of the teachers told us the kids were drawing helicopters in art class," Evans said.

Before taking off the crew ran the Huey for about five minutes on the ground, to make sure the problem didn't return. The pilot says the warning light was a false alarm and there was no mechanical problem.