Losses and Aviation Safety

The tragic fate of Airwolf Bell 222: a few years after the show ended it was destroyed due to pilot error during a storm killing three aboard

The Bell 222

The Bell 222 is a twin-engine light utility helicopter that can be configured in 5 or 6-seat executive layouts, or can accommodate up to 8 passengers in a utility configuration, with a bench seat at the back for three, which fits into the L-shape of the fuel tank behind it. The helicopter is powered by two 592shp Avco-Lycoming LTS 101 650C-3 engines and introduced the use of the Noda Matic vibration reduction system developed for the 214ST, stub wings housing the retractable undercarriage, provision for IFR avionics, and dual hydraulic and electrical systems. The Bell 222 has been used for both business and utility operations (especially in the oil related work) around the world. Deliveries of the 222 began in 1980.


However, the Bell 222 will always be associated to Airwolf, an American action military drama television series.

Aired from Jan. 22, 1984, until Aug. 7, 1987 Airwolf plot featured an enigmatic loner at the behest of a shadowy government organization stealing a supersonic military helicopter from its twisted creator and using it to fight the bad guys around the world.

The flight-capable Airwolf helicopter was a cosmetically modified Bell 222, serial number 47085, sometimes unofficially called a Bell 222A. During filming of the series, the helicopter was owned by Jetcopters, Inc. of Van Nuys, California.

Destroyed due to pilot error

Whatever happened to Airwolf helicopter after the show ended?

‘Destroyed in 1992 due to pilot error during a storm — killing three aboard,’ says Ken Miyamoto, Produced screenwriter, former Sony Pictures script reader/story analyst, former Sony Studios liaison, on his Quora space The Tao of Screenwriting/Movies/TV.

‘The series Airwolf ran from 1984–1987, telling the story of a renegade pilot that goes on missions with an advanced battle helicopter as part of a deal with an intelligence agency to look for his missing brother.

‘In the show, the helicopter was a supersonic prototype (that even had an “evil” twin) attack helicopter that could be disguised as a civilian aircraft — a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” That’s why it’s called Airwolf.

‘Here’s the Airwolf insignia patch.’

Ambulance helicopter in Germany

Miyamoto continues;

‘After the series concluded, the cosmetically modified Bell 222, serial number 47085, was sold and became an ambulance helicopter in Germany.

‘On June 6th, 1992, it crashed on the side of a mountain during a thunderstorm, killing all three crew members.

‘The helicopter had just saved a little girl suffering from heavy burns on a mercy mission from Berlin to the Cologne University Burns Unit in Köln. After delivering her to safety, it was headed back to Berlin when it and the crew encountered unexpected weather. The visibility was reduced to nearly 100 feet due to fog amidst an oncoming thunderstorm.

‘Pilot error caused the helicopter and its crew to impact near a rock quarry close to Halbeswig at 100 MPH. The rotor blades clipped the tops of several trees, and then crashed on the mountainside.

‘A local farmer heard the explosion and notified emergency services. It took them over an hour to find the crash site.

‘When it was found, the helicopter was broken in half and the engine was destroyed.’

Miyamoto concludes;

‘A replica of Airwolf was created in the early 2000s and from 2007 to 2015 was displayed in a Tennessee museum until it was sold to a collector.

‘The replica is now on top of a $250 million mansion in Bel Air, California.

‘RIP Airwolf — and its onscreen pilot Jan-Michael Vincent (he passed away in 2019).’

Check out The Tao of Screenwriting for more fun Movie/TV discussions, as well as screenwriting and film industry insights.

Photo credit: Tennessee Museum of Aviation and Unknown

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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