Top Gear stars Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson have had a narrow escape after a helicopter they were travelling in came close to crashing.

The pair were just 30 seconds into a flight over Auckland harbour in New Zealand when a seagull slammed into the rotor blades of the helicopter, threatening to send it hurtling to the ground 400 ft below.

Fortunately pilot Andy McKay managed to avert disaster by steadying the chopper, then guiding it back down to earth.

“There were six passengers and I told them, ‘We’ve just clipped a bird, I’m going to go back and check the rotors out’,” McKay told the Sunday Mirror.

“The seagull was killed instantly. When we touched down the passengers just jumped out.”

A source told the News Of The World that Hammond and Clarkson, who were taking a sight-seeing break while on a Top Gear tour of New Zealand, feared for their lives at one point.

“It was touch and go,” the insider said. “Had the blades failed, it could have been dire.”

However McKay said the pair joked about the incident, and took to the air again in the chopper after checks had confirmed there was no lasting damage to the blades.

“They were laughing the whole time,” the pilot said. “They’re a joke a minute.”

The incident is the latest in a series of mishaps to befall the pair recently.

Hammond – who narrowly escaped death after a 288mph car smash three years ago – has only just come off crutches after taking a tumble from a horse.

And Clarkson – who escaped serious injury in a head-on collision last year – was recently pictured with his arm in a sling after an allergic reaction to a wasp sting.