When a Sea King sprang a hydraulic leak, the crew made a quick decision to land the military helicopter at a retail complex just outside Halifax Thursday afternoon.

“As soon as they touched down, one of the pilots came out and told them to cut the engines and then they all just came out and about five minutes later all the MPs and firefighters and all that came,” says witness Paul Cyr.

The crew was on a routine training flight between military bases. About two hours into the flight, a warning light came on in the cockpit, indicating a hydraulic oil leak inside the helicopter.

The five people onboard - all military personnel - made a quick decision to land as soon as possible.

“This emergency, in isolation, is not necessarily dangerous, but there are steps and procedures to be put in place, because if we were to lose secondary hydraulic systems, then it becomes critical, because we'd have no flight controls,” says pilot Lt.-Col. Jeff Fletcher.

Some of the crew live in the Bedford neighbourhood where the Sea King landed and knew the nearby shopping complex would be a safe place to land.

“This is not a type of malfunction we routinely have in this helicopter, but it is a type of malfunction we train for regularly, and when it does happen your instincts kick in and you deal with it as you have trained for over and over again,” says Fletcher.

The crew says the helicopter is nearly 50 years old.

“Maybe now is a good time to take a look at purchasing some new helicopters to keep everyone safe, including the people who fly them on a daily basis,” says witness Meredith O’Neill.

An investigation into the incident is underway.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Kelland Sundahl