Thursday, June 23, 2016

Port Townsend police investigate low-flying helicopter at Race to Alaska starting line


The pilot of a low-flying helicopter that flew amid the masts of sailboats outside Point Hudson Thursday morning is being investigated for reckless endangerment.

The helicopter was observed flying as low as an estimated 8 to 15 feet above the water before the 6 a.m. start of the second annual Race to Alaska.

Witnesses reported its rotor blades were below the height of some of the boats' masts. According to Section 91.119 of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight rule guidelines, the minimum safe altitude to operate an aircraft over "any congested area of a city" or "over any assembly of persons" is 1,000 feet. Over open water, the limit is 500 feet.

The second annual motorless boat race from Port Townsend to Ketchikan, Alaska, attracted about 80 boats and small watercraft, a few thousand spectators, and two helicopters.

A yellow helo stayed higher while several bystanders called 911 to report a blue Robinson R44II helicopter flying close to boaters gathering outside the Point Hudson Marina.

Witnesses reported the rotor blades were disturbing the water's surface, and the helo was described as having flown as low as 8 feet above the water, hovering and moving between boats. Several witnesses submitted photographs and video evidence to the PTPD.

Bill Corrigan, PTPD officer and a pilot himself, identified the pilot as a 44-year old man from Federal Way, Washington. The pilot told police that he was flying the helicopter for a television news crew, according to a PTPD press release June 23, and that the news crew was encouraging him to fly lower.

"The pilot expressed remorse for his decision to fly that low," PTPD Detective Luke Bogues said in a press release.

No citation has yet been issued, Bogues said Thursday, because the investigation is ongoing. The incident has been reported to the Federal Aviation Administration's flight Standards District Office in Seattle. The FAA could launch its own investigation into whether any flight rules were broken by the pilot.

Original article can be found here:

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. -- Police are investigating after a helicopter was seen flying just feet away from dozens of sailboats Thursday morning in Port Townsend.

The boats, which were part of the Race to Alaska, were gathering outside Point Hudson at about 6 a.m. when a Robinson R44 II helicopter approached from above. Video of the incident shows the chopper flying close to the water and, in some cases, lower than the tops of the sailboats.

As many as 2,000 people were gathered on the shore to watch the beginning of the race, and several of them shot photos and video of the helicopter, according to the Port Townsend Police Department.

Police Officer Bill Corrigan, a pilot himself, is investigating the pilot for potential reckless endangerment charges, according to the department.

A 44-year-old pilot later told police he was flying the helicopter for a television news crew. The Federal Way man said the unidentified news crew was "encouraging him to fly lower," according to the police department.

Police say the pilot, who yet to be arrested or charged with any crimes, expressed remorse for flying that low. The FAA may launch their own investigation into whether any flight rules were broken by the pilot.

Nobody was injured and the race continued on as planned.

Original article can be found here:

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