By RACHEL HANSEN Washington (AP) A couple of hours after taking a nap at the top of a mountainside overlooking the city of Portland, Oregon, an Air Force veteran from California found himself at the bottom of a cloud.
For nearly 10 hours, Capt. Mike Smith woke up and saw a light flash from the ground as the helicopter he was flying on pulled away.
Smith said the cloud had no power and no direction.
Smith said the pilot didn’t know where he was or what was happening and that he was forced to dive into a river that was about 300 feet (91 meters) below him.
“We were not expecting it to happen and it was just amazing to watch,” he said.
The pilot and the helicopter crew were not injured.
Smith’s father, who was not there, said the crew was lucky the plane had a radio system that could help him get the crew’s location.
Smith, 48, is a veteran of the Air Force Reserves and is a pilot in the National Guard.
He retired in 2016 after 15 years in the Air National Guard and served in the Marine Corps.
The sun and cloud were in the upper reaches of the city, but the area was still shrouded by fog and snow.
It was dark and the clouds were a dark blue.
Smith has been a resident of Portland for 15 years and has worked in the city’s food services for 20 years.
He has flown around Portland in helicopters for the past few years.
The weather conditions were so bad that Smith couldn’t even use his GPS to find the nearest airport, so he had to rely on what he knew was a Google Maps route.
The plane was taking off at about 10:45 a.m. when Smith began to wonder whether the pilot was in trouble.
The helicopter pilot had no idea where he or the crew were and no one had any idea where the fog was, Smith said.
As the crew prepared to leave the plane, Smith began panicking, he said, wondering if he had been a pilot before and that the plane was about to crash.
Smith and his father had no way of knowing that the pilot would have been in danger, so Smith and his wife flew to a local airport to get a flight plan and check with the pilot.
They were told to fly to Portland International Airport, which was about 60 miles (100 kilometers) away, and take a taxi to the nearest hotel.
After a short delay, the couple got a taxi and they arrived at the hotel at 8:30 a.mi.
(4:30 p.m.) to find a waiting helicopter.
The pilots said they were on a training flight to the airport.
When they reached the hotel, they found the helicopter and the pilots.
The couple said they called a dispatcher and were told the pilot had been hit by a hail storm and that they would have to land in the airport, but they could have stayed the night at the Hilton Portland International.
After they were able to get in touch with the flight crew, the helicopter landed safely.