It was another quiet afternoon on the farm as Eldridge Zang sat in the kitchen, talking with his wife, Ruth. Then he saw the giant twin-rotor helicopter flying low, heading for the house.
"I was sitting in the kitchen watching him come toward us, wondering why he was so low," said Zang, who owns the 200-acre Idlewilde horse farm in Davidsonville.
"Then we came out, saw that the back end was smoking. We saw it come down real easy. Everybody inside piled out."
The Chinook CH-47U.S. Army cargo helicopter cleared the tree in front of the house and made a smooth emergency landing just before 4 p.m. Tuesday on the big, grassy field off Davidsonville Road. As the helicopter landed, anexplosion beneath the back rotor blew a hole in the aircraft's metalskin. Four soldiers climbed out of the helicopter, safe and sound.
"Those boys were really lucky they found a good spot," Zang said yesterday.
Staff Sgt. Dottie Vick, a public relations specialist at the 97th Army Reserve Command at Fort Meade, said the helicopter developed a mechanical problem while conducting maneuvers. She said the helicopter -- from the Fifth Battalion of the 159th Aviation Regiment -- had been in the air 45 minutes and was returning to Tipton Army Air Field when the problem occurred.
County police said the helicopter developed a hydraulic fluid leak in flight, but Vick said the Armyis "not sure what the problem was," but that it "did not affect the engine or controls." She said the Army is working to find the cause of the problem and to figure out how best to remove the helicopter.
"We're not sure if it can be flown on its own power or if we have tobring a truck in" to remove it, said Vick.
The helicopter, about 50 feet long and 18 feet high, sat in the field yesterday, its back end torn open, as Army officials kept watch.
Zang said the Army is welcome to leave the helicopter there as long as it would like.
"We said 'Just leave it there,' " Zang said, smiling. " 'We'll use it as a barn.' "