Imagine a scenario where you are enjoying a lovely backyard gathering on Memorial Day. You begin to hear the distinctively loud thump-thump of helicopter propellers approaching your home. Suddenly, a helicopter appears over the treetops and hovers just above the powerlines in your back yard. This may sound unbelievable, but it really happened – and it was alarming.
At 6 pm a black helicopter with red markings did just that. It came so close that I could see the pilot’s face. I was able to track the aircraft on web track (webtrak.bksv.com/den) and verify that it landed at Longmont’s Vance Brand airport. I got in my car and drove the 8 miles to the airport to have a little chat with the pilot, but when I arrived the copter and pilot were nowhere to be found.
This isn’t the first incident where this Enstrom 480B* helicopter has harassed our neighborhood**. Fortunately, this time we were able to record the aircraft’s N number and identify the operator, which is based at the Longmont airport. I filed a formal complaint with the FAA, feeling confident that the matter would be handled appropriately. Instead, Jack Muldoon at the FAA informed me that the copter was not in violation of any rules. According to the FAA, helicopters are not held to the same altitude restrictions as fixed-wing aircraft. Over populated areas, airplanes must fly 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet – but not helicopters.
The voluntary measures currently in place to minimize impacts from aircraft operations are not sufficient. A small number of pilots seem unconcerned about how their conduct affects local residents. The solution is fairly simple – adopt reasonable and mandatory regulations aimed at protecting the local community from excessive aircraft noise and reckless pilots.
** Flight Path of N481SH from webtrak. Note: altitudes are estimated, time frame size is 15 seconds, hovers of under 10 seconds are not apparent.
*** corrected weight of helicopter to 3000 lbs as listed here.