Federal authorities are investigating a helicopter crash that happened Wednesday near the southern tip of Daniel Island.
A Robinson R22 helicopter struck a tree and crash-landed Wednesday afternoon, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Kathleen Bergen.
Charleston Police met with the two passengers of the crash later that afternoon, according to an incident report.
The instructor told police he is a private helicopter instructor and was giving a lesson to a student pilot at approximately 3:30 p.m. While the student was practicing "low impact and hover taxi maneuvers" above undeveloped land on Daniel Island, they turned and saw a white "DJI Phantom quad-copter" drone headed into their airspace, the report states.
Police say the instructor took controls of the helicopter to avoid the drone and while attempting to land, the helicopter's tail rudder struck a small tree, causing him to lose control of the helicopter.
The instructor was able to land the helicopter on its rear landing skids but it turned over on its side, the report states.
The instructor notified the owner of the helicopter and FAA investigators.
The student told police they were about 50 feet above the tree line when the drone entered their fly space. She said when the helicopter struck the tree, several pieces of the helicopter hit surrounding brush causing the helicopter to turn on its side when it landed.
As best as I can understand it, the drone never made contact with the chopper. The "instructor" crashed on his own basically. To me this is the equivalent of a driver of a car blaming a cat on the side of the road for his crash into a pole.
A Robinson R22 helicopter struck a tree and crash-landed
So a drone didn't not cause the helicopter to crash, bad piloting and human error led to the helicopter striking a tree which resulted in a crash.
"low impact and hover taxi maneuvers" above undeveloped land on Daniel Island, they turned and saw a white "DJI Phantom quad-copter" drone headed into their airspace
So a flight instructor is supposed to "teach" you to fly with ROOM to avoid accidents. If flying in a canyon for instance, they will not instruct you to fly down the center of the canyon, they will actually instruct you to fly to one side (this gives you lots of room to perform a 180 if needed). If flying low, they will not instruct you to fly "low and slow", instead they will instruct you to fly "low and fast" in order to give you enough immediate power should you need to climb unexpectedly.
It seems that this helicopter pilot who was instructing someone on hover taxi maneuvers did so in a location where neither themselves nor their student could avoid an accident in an emergency situation.
the helicopter's tail rudder struck a small tree, causing him to lose control of the helicopter.
Again, crash caused by pilot’s poor judgement and lack of situational awareness. For instance, if you are turning into a parking space in your car and you scrape the side of a parked car, that is your fault for not knowing where your corners are, the width of your car and it's turning radius. In this case the pilot maneuvered his craft without knowing where the surrounding objects where in relation to his tail rotor.
The student told police they were about 50 feet above the tree line when the drone entered their fly space.
So why was a student pilot practicing hovering 50 feet above a tree line when it would have been safer to practice hovering above an empty lot or field (which would have offered an immediate safe non object filled landing site).
In short, all evidence points to this being the work of a poor pilot with poor judgment and poor decision making abilities. Considering the downforce that helicopter rotor wash can produce, should the drone have been coming "straight at them" a simple rise in elevation would have blown the "dji phantom" to the ground or away from the copter. Should it have been coming at them from below, the same applies. If the drone was approaching from above the pilot could have simply descended and landed his copter and avoided a potential accident HAD the pilot or instructor been practicing hovering maneuvers in a safe and clear area (such as a barren lot or empty field).
The real culprit in this situation however is the scourge of many drone pilots. Once again TREE'S have caused a very serious accident. The FAA should immediately ban this instructor from ever teaching in a helicopter again and then proceed on a lengthy and vigorous tree cutting operation.