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Men Land Helicopter in Salem Parking Lot to Buy Fishing GearKevin Hays Salem-News.com
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
(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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