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Jun-09-2014 21:47printcommentsVideo

Men Land Helicopter in Salem Parking Lot to Buy Fishing Gear

One of the men said it was legal for them to land in the parking lot, while FAA regulations say otherwise. Video by Jerry Freeman Salem-News.com

Robinson R22 helicopter
A Robinson R22, similar to this one, landed in the parking lot of a Salem sporting goods store Monday afternoon.
Photo Courtesy: vario-helicopter.net

(SALEM, Ore.) - A bizarre shopping spree at a southeast Salem sporting goods store could have turned out to be a serious or deadly accident.

The incident occurred Monday afternoon at the Sportsman's Warehouse located at 1240 Lancaster Dr. SE, Salem. Two men left the helicopter after landing and went shopping for what Salem-News.com was told were fishing poles.

Neighbors in the area heard and watched the helicopter, a Robinson R22, which had the name Jerry Trimble Helicopters on it, buzz over homes in nearby neighborhood’s for about five minutes before the helicopter landed.

One witness said, "I wasn't sure if they were having trouble, or were waiting clearance to land at nearby McNary Field." The Salem airport is about three miles west of the Sportsman Warehouse parking lot.

One of the men said that there was nothing illegal about landing a helicopter in a parking lot. But shoppers, drivers on Lancaster Drive, and nearby homeowners have a different opinion. "What a couple of idiots and jerks," Molly Anderson of Salem said.

"They could have easily distracted a driver and caused a major accident, or hurt or killed someone in the parking lot with the spinning blades."

However, after arriving on the scene, Salem Police questioned the two men about their actions, made no arrests or issued any citations for endangering the public, or any other crimes.

Salem airport officials refused to comment on if the helicopter had first taken off from the airport, or, if the pilot had radioed employees working at the Salem Control Tower of their plans to land the helicopter in the retail parking lot.

Salem-News.com was told by another pilot that since most smaller aircraft fly using visual flight rules, or VFR, it is doubtful that the control tower even knew what was going on before they could stop it. If they did know, there could be one serious investigation into who, and why, the helicopter was allowed to land in a public area in a non-emergency situation with no approval of the land owner, let alone the owner of the aircraft.

According to the FAA’s website, it is only legal to land a helicopter in a parking lot or any other public area only in an emergency, and you must have permission to land by the local authorities. However, you can land in a parking lot if you have permission of the landowner before hand.

So why didn't Salem Police, or authorities at Salem’s McNary Field act as if this was indeed illegal as stated by FAA regulations?

A Salem Police spokesman told the Statesman Journal Newspaper that it was a legal landing. REALLY? Did he read the FAA regulations before making that statement to the paper? The stores in the area had no authority to allow the landing, only the land owner.

I guess they were more in awe of the helicopter and its landing spot, than the law, or the welfare of the general public. If they did allow the helicopter to land and it was not an emergency and violated FAA regulations, will anyone be held responsible for their actions?

Salem-News.com has put a call into an FAA spokesperson for comment on this story and the rules regarding helicopter landings, and if an investigation into this incident will take place.

Jerry Trimble Helicopters is located in McMinnville, Oregon, approximately 50 miles southwest of Portland, Oregon. According to the their website they have a flight school, and offer a number of scenic flight tours.

Salem-News.com contacted Jerry Trimble Helicopters by phone Monday evening. A lady, not identifying herself, wished not to comment on the situation or this story.

Let's all hope that Salem learns from this incident, so it doesn't happen again. Unless the pilot simply has the proper approval of the local governing authorities and follows FAA guidelines, they can't legally land in a parking lot like this pilot did tonight. That way we don't have to report that someone was seriously hurt, or worse, killed in a similar incident.

Watch the Video below:

Video by Jerry Freeman, Salem-News.com

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Pilot Joe December 18, 2014 9:01 pm (Pacific time)

Look up CFR 14, FAR §91.3, §91.13, §91.119. Its legal bud.


Reporter June 10, 2014 7:36 pm (Pacific time)

Again. Let me say that the pilot DID NOT have the approval of the land owner to land of the parking lot to land his aircraft. The land owner is extremely upset by this incident and may take some sort of action against the pilot or the company that owns the helicopter. The FAA may also look into this as he clearly did not have his "ducks in a row" before his landing. Air Ambulances are allowed to land in parking lots and fields because they are emergency vehicles. The FAA says that if you want to land a helicopter in a parking lot or other public place, you must contact the local authorities AND the land owner, NOT the store owner or manager, for approval, which these men did not have. It was a waste of police resources, and I have no problem if someone wants to land a helicopter legally.


Reporter June 10, 2014 7:29 pm (Pacific time)

The REAL issue here is whether or not the pilot violated any laws. Plus, why did Salem police need to send units to the scene if the landing WAS legal and approved by the proper authorities. Taxpayers should not have to fit the bill so cops can sit and watch and wait for two men to land a helicopter at a store just to get fishing poles and gear. Now as for the what if's, you all would be very upset if this pilot had made a mistake, and I'm sure he was a good pilot, but if something had gone wrong, who would be to blame? Salem police for allowing it to happen? The control tower worker who approved the non-emergency landing? Or, the property owner who had no idea this landing was taking place? What this has done has opened the door for other pilots to say, hey if he can do it, why can't I? Also, these guys were from McMinnville, Oregon about a 30 mile drive from Salem. Why could they have not just landed at the Salem Airport, grabbed a cab, and drove the 2 miles to the store and then returned. As a Veteran, and my uncle was a pilot for United Airlines for some 30 years, I have nothing but respect for ALL pilots. My point is now that this has happened, will it lead other to do the same thing? And, if they did break FAA rules that clearly state that he needed the approval of the land owner, and the local authorities, which he did not have, other than a store worker, then why should he not be held accountable for his actions? And why should the taxpayers of Salem have to pay for on duty officers to babysit a helicopter while they went shopping? I have nothing for respect for all pilots, but something isn't right here. I'm not against a person with a helicopter landing on his or her own property, but when you land in a public place that is not even your home city, don't you think questions need to be raised as to why this was allowed to happen when the airport is less than 5 miles away. If I offended any pilot, I apologize. But I thought that the whole story was better than a half done story about something that could have went wrong, thank God it didn't, but does the FAA for one need to investigate this, and two, does this mean that Salem parking lots are now fair game for all helicopter pilots.


Josh June 10, 2014 7:24 pm (Pacific time)

There is nothing illegal about landing a helicopter in a parking lot or a field. How do you think air ambulances get away with it. As long as the pilot determines it is a safe location to land, and the store and land owners don't object there is no problem. Its nice to see the police didn't over react like the writer of this article did.


Carla June 10, 2014 5:40 pm (Pacific time)

haha you guys sound just like 'helicopter' parents! Quit worrying about all the could- haves and what-ifs, and just let people enjoy their life! Americans need real things to worry about, so we stop nit-picking insignificant BS.


Rp June 10, 2014 4:50 pm (Pacific time)

The one thing the writer of this story is missing is that even if the police thought the pilot did something wrong, they have no jurisdiction. The police are not an enforcement arm of the FAA. I am sure that if the police could have found something that the pilot did was illegal, they would have cited them for it.


Aviation Journalist June 10, 2014 1:51 pm (Pacific time)

Unfortunately; a number of folks seem to be reacting to an incredibly one-sided story that contains a number of errors in fact and more opinion (much of it suspect) that real news. Look, I'm an 18,000 hour Commercial Pilot and Aviation Journalist and must simply caution readers to take this so-called story with a grain of salt. I do not have sufficient facts to ascertain whether or not these pilots had the requisite area/room to conduct a safe landing operation, though the video 'seems' to suggest they did, but I can tell you that the FAA regs (FARs), as quoted/explained do not exist. Further; the invective and one-sided nature of the story and the fact that it seems to have been written solely to castigate the pilots sure seems to be poor journalism -- unless the writer wanted to make helicopter pilots look bad. Helicopters are marvelous vehicles that provide great enjoyment and utility to sport flyers and professional life-saving/life-enhancing services to those in need at critical times. They are amazing tool when used properly and professionally. Being a helicopter pilot brings with it great responsibility -- but it is up to the FAA and the rotary winged/vertical lift pilot community to judge the safety and legality of these operations... not by someone who clearly does not know an anti-torque pedal from their backside.


B-P June 10, 2014 10:28 am (Pacific time)

Great story. I hope the FAA comes down on these two dumb idiots, the control tower person who allowed it to happen, and the police for allowing it to happen if even they thought it would not cause a danger to the public, it did, because if it crashed, who knows how many people would have been hurt, but you see in the video the cops laughing and joking around with the two men. This is why Salem has such a bad name.


Mike D - Salem June 10, 2014 7:46 am (Pacific time)

I agree with the points made in this story. Why is it that things like this seem to happen in Salem, and the police and other agencies seem to think this kind of activity is normal and safe. If he would have crashed into the nearby homes or businesses, then someone who said this was o-k would be on the hook for it. But since they called it "legal", even though the FAA says it's not, nobody will be called into the police chiefs or mayor's office to explain why this was allowed to happen. Just stupid.


Andrew June 10, 2014 7:36 am (Pacific time)

Kevin. Very in-depth story, and great to see someone in Salem questioning Salem authorities unlike the local junk newspaper who always seem not to investigate anything and just take the cops word for it. This is a NICE change at Salem-News and you hit the nail on the head, that it is time for Salem to WAKE-UP and demand more from it's city and local leaders. If that guy would have caused an accident or killed someone, would the cops then acted? Seems their PIO says no since it was a "legal" landing in his eyes. Anyways great job.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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