Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Unauthorized Landing?

Interesting story. Pilot lands on roof of shopping mall and someone is injured, while regulatory authority says he shouldn't have landed there. But I'm sure it's not the whole story.

Who wouldn't like to have a helicopter and just be able to fly everywhere and land on the roof, avoiding the traffic, the usual parking problems and the hoi polloi? The Jetsons flew everywhere, why shouldn't you?

As this story takes place in Ireland, their air law applies, so I can't comment specifically on the regulations regarding landing on the roofs of shopping malls. If the story took place exactly the way the pilot said it did, then he knew the shopping mall owner, had general permission from him, and called ahead to make sure he still had permission on that particular day. That's a tough call. I know I've landed on private strips. I call the corporation or group that operates the airport and keep asking to be transferred to someone with authority to grant me landing permission until someone steps up. I thank them, write down their name and go land. I have no way of knowing whether the person was on a power trip or really had that authority. I never considered that it could turn into a run in with Transport Canada or the FAA. Perhaps in future I will ask for faxed permission. Even then, what if it's a fax from a bored guy in the mail room? Who does have the authority? Do you have permission to let someone park in the employee parking lot where you work? Does a security guard have authority to overturn your granting of permission? Does he or she run in front of vehicles to wave them off while parking?

The pilot's account has the attendant only coming onto the roof after landing, while the attendant says he was "ignored" when he tried to wave the helicopter away. There's an easy way to rectify the two accounts. On the first pass, while the attendant was inside, the pilot verified that the landing are was clear, and then approached for landing. While the pilot was maneuvering to land, the attendant, inexperienced in the marshalling of aircraft, came onto the roof and waved at the helicopter from a position where he was not visible to the pilot. He fled the roof, and the pilot only saw him after landing. It was still the pilot's responsibility to ensure that the area was clear, but when people you don't know are present run into your blind spot during final approach you have done all you can.

The pilot's story gets a little fishy when he says he lost his logbook. It does happen, but nice coincidence. And what about the 'subsequent accident?' He also should have (assuming Irish law resembles Canadian in this respect) reported an injury caused by rotor downwash, but I can imagine the conversation.

"Hey! You can't land here!"

"I have permission from the owner."

"No, you can't land here, I told you, and you made the door slam and hurt my hand."

I'm thinking that if the attendant was so unlucky as to catch his hand in a slamming door such that fingers were partially severed or skin was cut through to tendons and bone the conversation would have been more along the lines of "Oh my God, call 999!" Without blood and/or severed appendages is "You hurt my hand" along the lines of "ouch that hurt" or "I require medical attention"? From someone who is angry at you in the first place, you wouldn't be out of line to assume that the hurt is more along the lines of aggrieved than medically afflicted.

On the other hand the pilot may be a complete asshole who saw the guy, deliberately angled rotor wash to scare him off and ignored his cries for help as he sashayed off to get his new keys cut. I have no way of knowing which scenario applies. In any event if he has the cash to go to the mall in his own helicopter, he probably bought the appropriate legal counsel to fly out of this situation, licence intact.


steve said...

I think you have him summed-up in the last paragraph.

He probably drives a BMW, personalised number-plate, 99gigawatt stereo (window down! -of course)

wears the hugest watch with loads of dials and a gold bracelet the size of Abramovich's mooring-chain.

I had a bit of sympathy initially, but this guy REALLY stuck 2 fingers up at the authorities........oh, and IIRC, the Heli was on an American registration, albeit the paperwork was somewhat lacking ;-) .....see a pattern emerging? wasn't the second incident caused by an absence of motion-lotion whilst in-flight?

Aviatrix said...

The N-number doesn't mean the pilot was American. A lot of people register aircraft in the US and fly on US licences, without other association with the United States. For the pilot, the US medical standards allow people to fly with conditions that prevent holding a medical in some other countries, e.g. diabetes. For the aircraft, insurance and maintenance rules are different, allowing lower cost operation of N-registered aircraft.

dpierce said...

My only comment is: if you see a helo landing, unless you know what you're doing, stay the hell away from it. It might be landing due to an emergency. (Of course, this wasn't the case here, but the attendent didn't know that.)