Videos show first flights of helicopter that crashed in Spring Branch

Richard Herr, who died in a helicopter crash in Spring Branch, was a combat pilot in the Kosovo War.

Richard Herr, who died in a helicopter crash in Spring Branch, was a combat pilot in the Kosovo War.

Courtesy National Museum of the United States Air Force.

A series of six videos appear to show a kit-build helicopter involved in a recent fatal crash being tested and flown more than a decade ago. Richard Herr, who died alongside Hill Country flight school founder Kevin Berry on April 29 in the crash, is seen working with the Hummingbird 260L helicopter in one video and piloting it in others, including its maiden flight and another flight with his mother on Mother’s Day in 2013.

The video came to light in a Reddit post of a previous MySA story on the two men being identified and new information about the aircraft. Reddit user CommonRequirement shared the video in a comment on the post.

“Found a video of its first flight. looks more solid than I imagined (video is 20 gusting 30),” the Redditor wrote. “He’s flown it for almost 12 years so it was probably a better build than people are giving him credit for. Very sad to see.”

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MySA’s previous story revealed the aircraft was built with a Chevrolet Corvette LS7 engine, although it has not been publicly confirmed by the NTSB’s investigation if the same engine was being run at the time of the crash. An obituary for Berry states a mechanical failure caused the crash and that Herr was piloting the Hummingbird at the time. In a 2020 video for the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Herr speaks about his helicopter and states he does the maintenance on it himself.

A comment on the video of the aircraft’s first test flight — which was recorded in 2012 — is from what appears to be Richard Herr’s YouTube account and was posted roughly one year ago, although a specific date is not shown. In it he describes changes to the helicopter since it’s first flight a decade earlier, calling it by a nickname he also uses in the Air Force video — The Mistress.

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“Yes, still have The Mistress. Have made and tested bunches of upgrades to include major engine re wiring, new tunable engine computer, composite blades, trim system, oil cooler, stand by electric water pump, Nitrous bottle, new intake and air induction system, forced air heater, dampner [sic] upgrades, cameras, batteries and the list goes on,” Herr’s comment reads.

Other comments made from the account that posted the videos, appearing to belong to Herr’s wife, speak positively of the LS7 engine.

“I have stuck the tail in a direct cross [wind] with full left pedal at 3/4 Max gross and the RPM does not droop. This on a 90 degree day on the ramp. The LS7 power is there,” the comment reads.

Another comment from Richard Herr states he purchased the “quickbuild” option from Vertical Aviation Technologies for the Hummingbird 260L, which delivers a partially complete aircraft with “assembled airframe including, windshield, nose, center instrument console, doors, tail cone, landing gear and stabilizers.” Current pricing for the kit with this option is listed on the website as costing $241,650.

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“I got the quick build kit. I am the first one in the US to build it with the LS7 and the new MGL panel. There is a guy in Canada that built one with the LS7 and no MGL and he has skids as well,” the comment reads. “I think that lots of the issues I had I’ve been able to [relay] to Brad to help those that follow. If you get the Lycoming [engine] I can’t help with anything other than the Tail, Rotor, and Cabin and Flight controls.”

Brad appears to reference Brad Clark, who is listed as the owner of Vertical Aviation Technologies in a YouTube video from Base Leg Aviation and is mentioned on the company’s website. A November 29, 2012, Facebook post from the company congratulates Herr on his first flight, but a link in the post no longer functions. MySA reached out to the company for comment and will update this story if a response is received.

Flying over the Texas Hill Country

A video recorded from the aircraft’s cockpit shows the helicopter soaring hundreds of feet above the Texas Hill Country on a flight to Canyon Lake. During the 9-minute video, it appears his main GPS unit fails and a backup GPS unit is used.

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During the flight, captions laid over the video call out points of interest being flown over, including the Bulverde H-E-B, town of Sattler, Tye Preston Memorial Library and a Home Depot in Bulverde. The flight also takes them over their home after they fly above Highway 46.

The flight also passes by Smithson Valley High School and over New Braunfels before showing a successful landing at a small airport.

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