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'Believed they might have struck birds' | Report released on fatal helicopter, plane crash in Chandler

The pilot and passenger of the airplane didn't know they hit a helicopter before making an emergency landing, a National Transportation Safety Board report shows.

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Editor's note: The video above is from a newscast on Oct. 1. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released a report showing new details in the mid-air collision of a plane and helicopter that left two people dead at the Chandler Municipal Airport.

The report, released Wednesday night, shows the flight instructor in the airplane did declare an emergency at the time of the collision, but not because he thought he hit another aircraft.

RELATED: Two dead after helicopter collides with airplane in air above Chandler airport

"The flight instructor believed they might have struck birds, advised the tower, and declared an emergency," the NTSB report said. "The airplane flight instructor radioed the tower and reported that they felt and heard a loud bang."

Parker Northrup, Flight Department chair at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott said that's something he's not surprised by.

"That would have been the most logical thing to have hit his airplane that he didn't see would be a bird," Northrup said. "Especially if it was underneath the aircraft as the position of the helicopter was." 

Traffic pattern data from the FAA show that the flight paths of both aircraft intersected at 1,400 feet. Both of the aircraft were used for instructional flights.

Credit: Federal Aviation Administration

Northrup said just like cars, aircraft have blind spots and it's possible the helicopter and plane didn't see each other.

"While we do actively clear for other aircraft just like any other vehicle you would ride in, there are times when the vehicle itself can block your view of certain aspects or certain areas of the airspace," Northrup said. 

The Chandler Police Department said 34-year-old Michael Papendick and 27-year-old Jessica Brandal were in the helicopter that collided with a small plane on Oct. 1.

Papendick and Brandal’s helicopter crashed and caught fire, but the plane’s pilot was able to make an emergency landing.

The two aircraft were operated by the Quantum Helicopters and Flight Operations Academy flight schools.

RELATED: Both victims in Chandler plane, helicopter crash identified

The next step in the NTSB and FAA officials' investigation will be examining the airplane and helicopter. Both of the aircraft were recovered and secured in a storage facility. 

The city of Chandler told 12 News in a statement, "This is an ongoing investigation and the City has worked to accommodate the needs of the NTSB, and will continue to accommodate their endeavors in their investigative process." 

See the full NTSB report here:

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