“DJI Phantom Blamed for Helicopter Crash”

You’ve read the news reports.

“Local and federal authorities are investigating a helicopter crash on Daniel Island, Charleston, South Carolina that reportedly was caused by a drone last Wednesday afternoon.”

“The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed Thursday that a Robinson R22 helicopter struck a tree and crash landed near the southern tip of the island around 2 p.m.”


There’s a serious problem with this news report. I am bothered most by the statement: “caused by a drone“. First, there’s no evidence that there was a drone and not a piece of trash blown up by the rotorwash from the helicopter. Second, panic is no excuse for the instructor pilot not being in control of the aircraft.

If the helicopter pilot said a missile flew by the aircraft, would you title the article “Missile Blamed for Helicopter Crash” ????

Pilots make evasive maneuvers for a multitude of reasons every day. I’ve seen lots of reports of traffic conflicts, wildlife on the runway, and most amazingly a turtle on the runway that caused a crash. Almost all of these become non-incidents. Occasionally the evasive maneuver results in a crash. In these cases the pilot is sometimes held accountable by the FAA for the resulting accident, at the very least violating §91.13 Careless or reckless operation. Panic is not an option.

But, if the conflict was POSSIBLY a drone, STOP THE PRESSES!

It’s also quite possible that the drone operator (assuming that it was a drone) was flying perfectly legally in an open field at low altitudes when the helicopter arrives to perform practice hovering maneuvers., also perfectly legal.  The FAA rules do say that the drone must give way to the manned aircraft. If there was a drone involved, where is the evidence that the drone was not moving away from the helicopter giving right-of-way as required when the helicopter pilot panicked and caused an accident?

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