Owl Accompanies Firefighting Pilot Making Water Drops


Helicopter pilots don’t usually pick up hitchhikers, especially in flight, but a firefighting pilot in California had some unexpected company in the cabin last Monday. An owl flew through the open door of Dan Alpiner’s UH-1 Huey as he dropped water on a section of the sprawling Creek Fire in central California. The bird perched on a seat back and made itself home for several minutes.

Alpiner was afraid the owl would panic and fly around the cockpit but it never moved from its perch. “It’s an unexplainable and magical miracle for it to stay with you for several water drops, then leave just as it arrived—safe and unannounced,” he said. Sky Aviation said in a statement that it was an unprecedented experience. “It’s odd to have an owl enter an aircraft. It’s unheard of to have it enter while the helo is in-flight,” Sky Aviation said. 

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I find it hard to believe this isn’t a Photoshopped image. How would any bird be able to fly through the downwash and enter a helicopter?

  2. I have no idea if this is legitimate, but it reminds me of a story I heard while repairing the landing gear on my kite in Sunrise hospital (Las Vegas). A fellow hang glider rider, who’d managed to break his back in a bad landing, was flying in his wheel chair… with his pet parrot perched on the crosstube.

    Didn’t see it myself, but I trust the source, and it _was_ before social media.

  3. He does have that kind of quizzical CFI expression. Kind of like, “you really fly this thing like that?” look.

    But, here’s my question; Why was the door open?