An Example of Harassment by a Helicopter Pilot

It has been known to happen that, when non-aviation residents speak up to resolve aviation noise problems, they incur the wrath of some of the lower members of the pilot community. Most pilots are better than this, but there are a few who stoop this low.

One apparent example happened a few years ago, near Longmont, CO. After years of increasing noise by the aircraft operating for Mile-Hi Skydiving, Kimberly Gibbs and others had begun to organize, seeking to restore their quality of life. So, Ms. Gibbs became a target. In May 2012, she received a large envelope from Mile-Hi; inside was a tacky homemade poster that read “Have a Great Summer!” Clearly, it was sent just to remind her that the full-throttle months of the parachute season, with the noise that had ruined her previous summers, were just beginning.

20120504.. Poster & 'I Love Airplane Noise' bumpersticker, [Mile-Hi]Oh, and they also slipped in an ‘I love airplane noise!’ bumper sticker.

Barely three weeks later, Ms. Gibbs was in her backyard with friends, having a Memorial Day barbeque. Here is what happened at around 6:00pm, in her words:

“I heard what sounded like a train coming down the trail behind my house for several seconds, very alarming.  I couldn’t see what it was at first because of the trees.  Then suddenly, the helicopter appeared, very low, and paused for a moment when it got right behind my yard.  I looked right at the pilot.  I bent down, picked up a rock and threw it as hard as I could right at him, toward the open space. He took off toward Vance Brand airport.  Later I was told the pilot’s name, that he was buddies with the owner of Mile-Hi – and that he was there to purposely harass me. Nearly three years later, when we had the trial at the U.S. District Court, he was included as a potential defense witness, but they chose not to call him to appear.”

Here is a track, based on the actual radar data for N481SH, an Enstrom helicopter based at Vance Brand Airport:20150421cpy.. helo harassment flight screencap-4 (includes large view & marked)20150421cpy.. helo harassment flight screencap-3And to the right is a series of small images, with screen-captures showing the progress of the flight. Pay close attention to the data blocks, which show a ‘1200’ transponder code (used by ATC to track flights and attach flight data) as well as airspeed (MPH) and altitude (above ground level).

The bottom image shows flight data at position ‘1’ (orange circle on the larger image above), the middle image is position ‘2’,20150421cpy.. helo harassment flight screencap-2 and the top small image is position ‘3’.

The flying was fairly erratic, as indicated by the route, the speed trends, and the altitude trends. At position ‘1’, the pilot was over open space (the green area); he then threw away his safety margin by flying away from the open space and into the residential neighborhood, descending, and averaging a mere 200-feet above ground level!

At position ‘2’ he made a right turn toward the targeted backyard and gunned it, speeding up to make a ‘shock and awe’ appearance at the barbeque (near position ‘3’). 20150421cpy.. helo harassment flight screencap-1The whole party observed the rogue helicopter come to a stop and hover. Then, with his mission complete, the pilot started to accelerate (and slowly climb) to depart position ‘3’ toward the northeast.

As unbelievable as this pilot antic was, even more amazing was what FAA told Ms. Gibbs…

…When she told FAA what had happened, they told her that this kind of flying is all ‘legal’, per FAA’s helicopter regulations.

 


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