HALIFAX - A Sea King helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing Thursday in a vacant lot near a grocery store in Halifax after it experienced problems with its hydraulics, the Department of National Defence said.
The chopper was on a training flight from Canadian Forces Base Shearwater when it encountered the problems, navy Lt. Len Hickey said.
"In accordance with procedure, this requires a landing as soon as possible to limit any risk," Hickey said in an interview.
The helicopter made a controlled emergency landing in a vacant gravel lot near a Sobeys grocery market in the Halifax suburb of Bedford around 2:20 p.m., he said. Five military personnel were on board, but no one was hurt.
Crystal Forhart, a front-desk worker at a nearby dental clinic, said she heard a loud, startling noise as the helicopter suddenly descended.
"We all stopped and said, 'Did you hear that? It sounds like it is right on top of us,'" she said in a telephone interview.
"I'm just glad it didn't land on us."
Hickey said an investigator was sent to the scene at Peakview Way off Larry Uteck Boulevard, and officials will repair the helicopter on site if possible.
"Right now, we're just following up to find out exactly what happened," he said. "We don't know exactly what the issue is."
Hickey said the military goes to great lengths to ensure its fleet of helicopters is safe.
"Old or new, aircraft flying has an element of risk attached to it just by its nature," he said.
"We do everything we can to minimize the risk, but sometimes these things happen."
The Sea Kings have been at the centre of controversy for years as Ottawa's bid to replace the aging helicopters has been repeatedly delayed.
The federal government is currently renegotiating its contract with helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., which was selected eight years ago to supply 28 new helicopters.
A $5.7 billion contract to acquire the CH-148 Cyclones was signed by the Liberal government of Paul Martin in 2004, a milestone event in the two-decade fight to find a replacement for the CH-124 Sea Kings after former prime minister Jean Chretien cancelled the first deal in 1993.
Sikorsky was required to deliver new state-of-the-art aircraft within four years, but the Harper government was forced to extend the contract in 2008 and toss in an extra $117 million after the program bogged down.
The Sea Kings began flying for the military in 1963.
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In this image made released by Britain's Ministry of Defence shows a Friday June 1, 2012 image of Britain's Prince William in the cockpit of a helicopter at RAF Valley in Anglesey Wales. (AP Photo/ SAC Faye Storer, MOD)
This is a Ministry of Defence handout image of Britain's Prince William and his crew take off for their first sortie from the Mount Pleasant Complex, in the Falkland Islands Saturday Feb. 4, 2012, part of his six week deployment to the Islands. (AP Photo/Sgt Andy Malthouse, MoD)
This is a Ministry of Defence handout image of Prince William , left, prepares for his first sortie with a crew member at Mount Pleasant Complex in the Falkland Islands Saturday Feb. 4, 2012, part of his six week deployment to the Islands. (AP Photo/Sgt Andy Malthouse, MoD)
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In this image provided by the Ministry of Defence, Prince William takes the controls of a Sea King helicopter on April 14, 2011 in Holyhead, Wales. (MoD Crown Copyright/ Getty Images)
In a file picture taken on April 1, 2011 Prince William looks on as Britain's Queen Elizabeth leaves after being shown a Sea King helicopter during a visit to RAF Valley in Anglesey, Wales. (ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images)
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(From L to R) Sergeant Ed Griffith, Britain's Prince William, Flight Lieutenant Alan Connor and winch operator Sergeant Paul Jones pose in front of their Sea King helicopter at RAF Valley in Anglesey, north Wales, after a training exercise at nearby Holyhead Mountain, on March 31, 2011. (JOHN STILLWELL/AFP/Getty Images)