FRESNO, California (KGPE) — People are calling it a miracle. On Sunday, at around 12:30 p.m. an owl landed inside a helicopter that was in flight fighting the Creek Fire.
The bird flew through into the aircraft through a small 16″ x 16″ window, stared at the pilot as it did several water drops to the fire, and then left out through the window around 10 minutes later.
“One in a million shot,” said Fresno Sheriff’s Office Pilot Johnny Reyes. “That guy should buy a lottery ticket.”
Pilot Dan Alpiner snapped a picture of his new unexpected co-pilot after it landed. He said when he noticed the large bird he was scared.
“Please don’t attack me,” said Alpiner. “It kinda spooked me for a second there and we kinda locked eyes and the thing looked around and was chill and then I was like okay then you are going to work with me.”
His company is based out of Wyoming and contracts with states to help fight wildfires. A spokesperson said the wind power generated by the helicopter’s blade is powerful enough to knock a grown man to the ground.
American Helicopter Flight Instructor Matthew Dowdy said the only explanation is the two were going the same speed.
“It would have to be perfect timing,” said dowdy. “As far as the bird going in there, it seems crazy. I guess it is just a daring bird.”
Alpiner said after 10 minutes, the bird flew out.
“It basically got out where it came in,” said Alpiner. “I was going another drop and then I saw him fly off.”
Usually when an aircraft and large birds meet, it turns dangerous.
Back 13-years-ago, a seagull hit a Fresno Sheriff’s helicopter head-on and shattered the front window.
“Hit one of our deputies,” said Reyes. “Luckily he had his helmet down with the visor on. They were able to land the aircraft safely and he was treated.”
Alpiner grateful that him and his new pal flew away safely.
“I mean we get to see a lot of cool things in the work but that is something that I will take with me for a long time.”