FAA Investigates Balloon/Police Helicopter Collision

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A Honolulu department store could face the FAA’s wrath after a Honolulu Police Department helicopter tangled with the tethered balloon the store was using to advertise a sale. The HPD chopper was supporting ground units chasing a suspected thief last week when it clipped one of the lines holding the Savers Thrift Center’s promotion balloon over the store. The balloon is apparently a common sight in the area, according to KGMB News. The tether got caught in the tail rotor and whipped the fuselage but the pilot was able to land it safely and, after inspection, it was cleared for flight to a repair facility. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says the store may have been violating FAA balloon rules. Gregor told the station that the maximum height a tethered balloon can fly is 500 feet AGL and it must be at least five miles from an airport. The store manager told the TV station his balloon was no more than 200 feet up, although the helicopter pilot claims he was 300 to 400 feet high when he hit the rope. Nevertheless, the rules also state that anyone who wants to put a tethered balloon more than 150 feet high has to notify the local FAA office and Gregor said there was no such notification.