May 31st 1989
A sightseeing helicopter owned and operated by Rainbow Helicopters of Niagara Falls, New York took off from its heliport adjacent to the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge near the Rainbow Bridge. Pilot Mark David Felderstein was flying with three passengers aboard.
The passengers were Louis Clements, of the State of Georgia and his wife, Mildred Clements, of Brockton, Massachusetts and their daughter Lisa Clements, of Quincy, Massachusetts. As Felderstein piloted his aircraft northward along the side of the Niagara Gorge, the helicopter’s landing rails struck the wire cables of the Spanish Aero Car which extend across the entire width of the Whirlpool.
The landing rails on the helicopter were torn away. The helicopter narrowly missed colliding with an Aero Car which was crossing the Whirlpool at the time and carrying 17 passengers. The Aero Car cables remained intact and sustained no substantive damage. Narrowly escaping one catastrophic event, Felderstein and his passengers were facing a crash landing without landing gear. Felderstein was able to control the helicopter and maneuvered it to the 10th hole of the Whirlpool Golf Course.
In order to ensure the safety of his passengers and fearing the helicopter would roll over upon landing, Felderstein hovered his helicopter several feet off the ground at full power. On the instructions of Felderstein, the three passengers were able to jump to the ground from the stricken aircraft and run to a safe distance to the front before Felderstein attempted this dangerous landing.
Mark Felderstein gently lowered his helicopter onto the golf course to a safe landing with no injuries to he or his passengers and with minimal damage to the aircraft. Although there was much to be said about the low level flight of this helicopter, regulations at that time allowed for a minimum height of only 500 feet over undeveloped areas such as the Niagara River Gorge.