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Questionable flying. R-44 incident under investigation


JCM5
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I remember seeing a picture in one of the magazines they handed out at Heliexpo last year that showed people jumping from an R44 into one of those stuntman pillows, during some kind of "helicopter day" in Russia.

 

However, unless this was some kind of sanctioned, formal event, I would not risk my pilots license doing it! I wonder, is this just another GA pilot with more money than brains?

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Well, I know I am too young (a pilot) to have an opinion on this, and especially to express the opinion I am about to say. But, I honestly don't see anything that would even constitute an incident, or something to be investigated.

 

What they are doing I think is foolish, but not illegal, since they are not endagering causing undue hazard to people or property in case of an emergency (engine failure). Well, this statement by itself now can open a whole new discussion, but it seems to me that nobody got involved, without wanting to be involved (for example the boats).

 

To be honest, the expert/nurse is quite frustrating to me (if that makes sense). Sure, somebody could get relatively easily hurt in what they were doing, but the same goes with skateboarding, mountain biking, rockclimbing, etc...

 

And it's not that we have people that are using tax payers' money to fool around. Like somebody previously said, probably it's people with more money than brains, and the expert/nurse getting jealous of that fact.

 

Now, if this whole thing was taking place in a protected area, I have to be honest... It ain't looking as 2000 agl to me. But hey, even that, it's just a recommendation, if I am not mistaken.

 

Anyway, I am sure the concesus is, "bad stuff" don't you ever dare to do something stupid like that, but on the other hand, I just don't see something that is illegit...

 

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Well, I know I am too young (a pilot) to have an opinion on this, and especially to express the opinion I am about to say. But, I honestly don't see anything that would even constitute an incident, or something to be investigated.

 

What they are doing I think is foolish, but not illegal, since they are not endagering causing undue hazard to people or property in case of an emergency (engine failure). Well, this statement by itself now can open a whole new discussion, but it seems to me that nobody got involved, without wanting to be involved (for example the boats).

 

To be honest, the expert/nurse is quite frustrating to me (if that makes sense). Sure, somebody could get relatively easily hurt in what they were doing, but the same goes with skateboarding, mountain biking, rockclimbing, etc...

 

And it's not that we have people that are using tax payers' money to fool around. Like somebody previously said, probably it's people with more money than brains, and the expert/nurse getting jealous of that fact.

 

Now, if this whole thing was taking place in a protected area, I have to be honest... It ain't looking as 2000 agl to me. But hey, even that, it's just a recommendation, if I am not mistaken.

 

Anyway, I am sure the concesus is, "bad stuff" don't you ever dare to do something stupid like that, but on the other hand, I just don't see something that is illegit...

 

This is my guess as to how the FAA would see it.

 

Operating so low over the water and close enough to boats to allow someone to grab onto the skids creates the "potential for disaster" (catching a skid in the water, getting LTE, SWP, or even an engine failure and spinning wildly into one of those boats!) which will probably get the pilot sited for Careless and Reckless flying?

 

The safer way to have done this would have been to collect the jumpers on the ground (like with sky divers) with the blades stopped (or while using an attendant with them spinning) then take them over the water for the jump. Separating the area off with buoys and/or signs to keep swimmers and other boats a safe distance away, would have also been better.

Edited by eagle5
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Jim, I spent a few years in the 160th SOAR as a crewmember on Chinooks. Now, if you know anything about that unit, you know a little about our customers and what they do. Ive been a part of several water operations where we had customers going out the back and free falling into the water. NEVER did we do a drop from half as high as some of those people were dropping. Why? Because the higher you are when you drop, the harder the water is when you hit. We usually had guys go out at 10-15 feet. Not 50! And those guys were extremely well trained professionals and paid risk takers. What I saw in that video was stupid, pointless, and foolish. I think the guy should lose his license on grounds that he obviously can't make sound decisions. And what if his engine had quit? Doesn't the CFR state that you should not operate at a speed and altitude at which you could cause undue damage to persons or property? He would have come down right on top of whoever he dropped, for one, then when he tipped over amd his blades hit the water, he likely would have sent pieces spinning off into the boat that was right next to him. I can think of a dozen other reasons why what he was doing was dangerous and or illegal.

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This is my guess as to how the FAA would see it.

 

Operating so low over the water and close enough to boats to allow someone to grab onto the skids creates the "potential for disaster" (catching a skid in the water, getting LTE, SWP, or even an engine failure and spinning wildly into one of those boats!) which will probably get the pilot sited for Careless and Reckless flying?

 

The safer way to have done this would have been to collect the jumpers on the ground (like with sky divers) with the blades stopped (or while using an attendant with them spinning) then take them over the water for the jump. Separating the area off with buoys and/or signs to keep swimmers and other boats a safe distance away, would have also been better.

.

 

I totally agree that there are a few thousand things that they could have done better and safer.

 

But... foolish though it may be (the way they did it), I don't think that the FAA should have any issues with it. It doesn't look that they disturbed people that were not involved in the act. It's not like there was a family swimming right next to them, and suddenly a chopper was hovering above their heads, with somebody hanging from its skids. And the same goes for the boat (it doesn't look like somebody is leasurily enjoying his boating trip, and gets annoyed/or endagered by the "crazy pilot".

 

They could do many things to improve their safety, but I don't think that it is anybody's authority to judge how somebody is having fun/getting his adrenaline dose as long as he/she doesn't violate any laws, and does not endager other peoples' lifes or properties.

 

And of course, just to clarify, I think it is quite unacceptable (ethically but not legally) if this was a professional operation/business, because still it seems a lot unprofessional...

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Unfortunately, this guy gives us all a bad name. He will likely have issues with several regs. Starting with

91.13 Careless or reckless operation.

 

(a) Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

 

From what I saw in the video, the pilot was way too close. Did the boats move in closer? Yes! But as the PIC and the 'expert' the pilot is responsible to prevent others from being endangered.

 

91.115 Right-of-way rules: Water operations.

 

(a) General. Each person operating an aircraft on the water shall, insofar as possible, keep clear of all vessels and avoid impeding their navigation, and shall give way to any vessel or other aircraft that is given the right-of-way by any rule of this section.

 

While the helicopter was not on the water, was it preventing other vessels or craft from navigating the waterway? Sure looks like it.

 

91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.

 

(d) Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface—

 

Pretty much the same as 91.13.

 

105.5 General.

 

No person may conduct a parachute operation, and no pilot in command of an aircraft may allow a parachute operation to be conducted from an aircraft, if that operation creates a hazard to air traffic or to persons or property on the surface.

 

While this reg doesn't really apply, the FAA holds the PIC responsible for the safety of parachutists. And I believe would hold the PIC in this case responsible for the safety of those dropping off the skid.

 

Perception is as important or more so than the facts. If it looks wrong, it probably is.

 

As for the Corp of Engineers, without knowing of any restrictions on that body of water, it sounded like they were doing their normal 'We own that body of water and if we don't like what you are doing, you've got problems!' Unless specifically restricted, the Corp allows seaplane operations on their water projects. While the R44 is not a seaplane, it could be a mariner.

Edited by rick1128
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Def not safe. But sure does look fun. Having gone cliff diving at about a 50ft height in Marseille, France when our carrier group pulled into port there once for a few days, 50ft doesn't seem like much. It's up there, but safer than cliff diving. It's a straight drop, no rocks to slip on and bust your head open on trying to get a running jump. Given the chance I would sure as heck jump from the skid of an R44. I wouldn't want to risk my pilots license giving the rides though. The hanging off skids and hovering near boats is plain dumb and unsafe, no doubt about it. I obviously don't know the size of the lake, but all the lakes I've gone wake boarding on had PLENTY of room to go around such horse play at a safe distance. I think the lady is just looking for a good story and a way to be on the news.

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What's the difference of dropping 50 feet from a helicopter and diving off a cliff that's 50-125 feet?? I used to cliff dive from 65 feet on still water (no waterfalls or spill ways) when I was a young kid.

 

I agree though, if anything could/should have gone wrong, the outcome would not have been very good.

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Diving 50 feet into the water is extremely dangerous. Cliff diving is a favorite past time but it kills a fair number of enthusiasts every year. If you hit the water right, you can survive a fall from 50 feet into the water. If you hit it wrong, it can easily kill you. Luck of the draw.

 

Add a helicopter hovering over a lake and picking people up on the skids into the mix and I think you have a recipe for disaster. Not a matter of if, but when, someone is going to get seriously hurt or killed.

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I'm sure the pilot had a much better view of things than a camera lens a thousand yards away.

 

And, worst case, if the helicopter crashes and kills everybody then at least they got taken out by somebody they knew.

 

Too many couch critics IMO, if these guys wanna kill themselves, then God be with them and the best of luck.

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I wouldn't be at all surprised if flying an R-44 is statistically more dangerous than cliff jumping from 50 feet. In either case it's a bit ridiculous to call that reckless. But just about anywhere cliff jumping gets popular, cliff jumping gets made illegal. There's plenty of precedent for how legislators feel about allowing people to be responsible for their own safety. I don't like it, but that's how it is. Would I define anything I saw in that video reckless? Nope. Do I expect the FAA to consider it reckless and take that pilot's license away? Definitely.

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d10, I am quite sure that everywhere cliff jumping is made illegal it's due to someone getting killed from cliff jumping. Laws are usually written as a knee jerk reaction to a tragedy. And it's not the law makers fault, because whenever something like that happens the community usually tries to blame authorities for not keeping people safe. Also land owners get sued (especially if it's gov owned land). None of this would happen if people didn't frequently die in cliff jumping accidents. So now let's bring this back to our little helicopter incident: If there HAD been an accident, how do you think people would react? I bet the FAA would be trying to find out who certified that pilot, families would be trying to find someone to sue, and lawmakers would be busily writing some new law that prohibits skid-diving from helicopters.

 

Maybe it wouldn't play out exactly like that, but you get my point. That's the way things in this country work. It's the public that demands all these laws. The gov is only happy to oblige.

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