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Dekalb police copter crashes
Two injured in Cov. airport crash
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A DeKalb County Police Department helicopter crashed and caught fire about 4:45 p.m. Friday at the Covington Municipal Airport.

Mekka Parish, a spokewoman for DeKalb police, said the pilot, a DeKalb police officer, was out on a re-certification exercise with a trainer and apparently engaged in a low-flying exercise when the craft crashed. The two men sustained minor injuries and were transported to Atlanta Medical Center Friday. DeKalb officials could not be reached Saturday to provide an update.

The pilot had no visible injuries and the trainer sustained some lacerations, Parish said; names of the two men have not been released.

National Transportation Safety Board officials arrived later Friday to collect evidence as part of its mandatory investigation, Covington Airport Engineer Vincent Passariello said Saturday. DeKalb police removed the helicopter via tow truck at 3 a.m. Saturday.

Passariello said the crash did gouge the runway in a few spots, but the damage was minor and would be repaired by Monday. As a safety precaution, Passariello temporarily moved the runway's threshold, the series of white lines that mark the beginning of the runway, west to avoid any unnecessary risk when planes land; the FAA was notified of the change. The threshold is expected to be moved back Monday.

He did not know the helicopter model, but said it was made by a French company. Passariello said the pilot lost control as the helicopter neared the grassy southern side of the runway causing the main rotor to hit the runway. The helicopter body then began tumbling across the runway and ended on the northern side, where it immediately caught fire.
"Those guys are lucky (they got out OK)," Passariello said.

The helicopter probably could have been repaired by replacing the rotors if the engine wasn't damaged, but because the fire melted many of the components, the helicopter was likely totaled, he said.

The Covington airport is a popular location for training exercises because it is close to Atlanta but has relatively light traffic. Passariello said many pilots train to get their licenses, and the airport has seen more helicopter visits from the Georgia State Patrol and DeKalb Police Department.

"It's a comfortable place to do training," he said. "We're glad they come because they buy fuel (which brings in money)."

Tharon Giddens and Amber Pittman contributed to this report.