A helicopter pilot was forced to land in the middle of a Cooper City strip mall parking lot early Wednesday after heavy fog blocked his visibility.
Paul Appleton was piloting his Robinson R- 22 helicopter with his passenger, Javier Romera, when they were forced to do a precautionary landing at the parking lot in the 5800 block of South Flamingo Road due to the heavy fog.
Appleton and Romera, a Spaniard who also has his pilot's license, had taken a ride over South Beach and Government Cut. They stopped at Tamiami Executive Airport for gas, took off around 12:10 a.m. and were headed back to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport when the clouds got too close for comfort.
"You can get into trouble in a second," Appleton said of his decision to land in the parking lot.
They landed without incident and waited for fog to clear up before they left the parking lot around 8 a.m. to make their way to the airport, which is about 13 and a half miles from the strip mall.
The incident wasn't Appleton's first run-in with problems in the air. Two years ago, on Super Bowl Sunday, he was flying over SunLife Stadium when a turkey vulture flew into his windshield. He landed and the bird flew off leaving him with just a scratch.
Appleton, a Cleveland firefighter and snowbird, said he has been flying since 1999 and added he is "lucky in unlucky situations."