Reckless helicopter

Enstrom 480

5 passenger 400HP turbine-powered, 8′ wide x 30′ long, 3000+ lbs – this is not a ‘small helicopter’

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 ( 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.

* N481SH owned by Doug Lyle of Lyle Aviation, 7733 N. 73rd St., Longmont, CO 80503. Current photo.

** 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.

  13 comments for “Reckless helicopter

  1. June 6, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    I dropped by Vance Brand airport today and spotted a copter in hangar 23 that sure looks a lot like the one in the article. Couldn’t see the number but the paint scheme is sure similar. Aren’t the hangar leases public records since the city owns the airport?

  2. Horizon Flying Club
    June 7, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Not the same helicopter and I would appreciate you removing the picture from the Web.

  3. June 12, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    A little background on ‘Horizon Flying Club’ – The email address appears to be Dave “Helicopter” Copp. His helicopter (an Engstrom 280FX Helicopter registration#: N280SG) is the same manufacturer as Doug Lyle’s. In fact, they’ve done synchronized flying at Longmont’s air show (here’s the page with the info – nice photos Bluedharma! Also a photo on page six of this PDF.) which seems to require a lot of practice.

  4. June 12, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    PS – as for removing any photo taken on public property, short answer: No. Private property owners can prevent photography on their property, but not photography of their property from a public location. Please make a note of it.

  5. Dave
    December 27, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Yep, same helicopter. I have images if you want ’em.

  6. December 28, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Thanks, we have plenty.

  7. som sai
    January 20, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    (comment deleted – attack on author) – also, email is spurious. To all our right-leaning friends, please read our Submission page before commenting. Our guidelines are simple, be real – Real Name, Real E-mail, be civil – no attacks on the writers. It’s very simple. If you just want to spew hate, the Times-Call website will welcome you with open arms. Cheers!

  8. April 22, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    Just saw this today – from 2015 – Yet another case of reckless and dangerous flying that ended badly. At least NOT into a heavy-populated area like the one this helicopter was flying over.

  9. Doug Wray
    June 11, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    And the beat goes on – this time it’s a helicopter, flying in driving rain (?) into restricted airspace and thence into a building. Hopefully NOT coming to Denver soon…

  10. January 28, 2020 at 2:35 am

    Excellent article with a ton of details. An aviation expert’s remarks at the end sum up the danger.

    “Still, he can’t help but be haunted by the idea that if Bryant’s pilot had decided to fly IFR, he and his passengers would still be alive.

    “A ton of rules come into play, and people don’t always want to fly that way. It takes away their ability to do whatever they want to do,” Cline said. “The trade-off is you get to live.”

    Thankfully it wasn’t into someone’s home.

    The S-76B (six tons takeoff weight) had impacted a hillside above the Los Virgenes Municipal Water District facility at a speed of 170 mph.

    Sounds like it was quick.

  11. January 30, 2020 at 3:46 am – TAWS would have prevented this, that’s why the FAA has recommended it for large passenger helicopters for some time…. but not required. I doubt expense was an issue. Begs the question.

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