News Chopper Crash Shows The Dangers

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KTRK has released the names of the two men killed in this morning’s

helicopter crash

in Montgomery County. The victims were pilot John Downhower and photographer Dave Garrett.

Today’s tragedy serves as a stark reminder of what can go wrong every time a news organization puts a reporter or photographer in the sky.

It was just over a month ago that the National Transportation Safety Board released a series of reports detailing the investigation of a July 2007 collision between two Phoenix news choppers that were covering a police chase. Two pilots and two photographers were killed.

Only three days after that crash, a traffic helicopter owned by the Dallas FOX affilliate was forced into an emergency landing, rolling over on its side, injuring the traffic reporter.

In May 2004, a helicopter crew covering a shooting for a Brooklyn NBC affiliate hit a four-story apartment building and subsequently crashed on an adjacent apartment building. Fortunately, the two pilots and reporter suffered only minor injuries.

In 2001, a Milwaukee news station’s helicopter crashed into an interstate shortly after the pilot dropped off the reporter. The pilot was killed.

In March 2000, a pilot and photographer for Miami’s NBC affiliate were killed when their helicopter crashed in a residential area.

“The rules with helicopters are pretty simple,” Bob Sainlar, pilot and director of operations for Houston-based Central Helicopter Service, Inc, tells Hair Balls. “Your only requirement is that if you have an engine failure, you should be able to reach a forced landing area without hurting people or property.”

Sainlar also said that helicopters are permitted to fly as low as 300 feet, compared to 1,000 for airplanes.

-- Craig Malisow

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