Helicopter Ice Cream Stop Nets Charges For Pilot


Police in Canada have charged a helicopter pilot after he used his Robinson R-44 to get an ice cream cake from the local Dairy Queen. The unidentified 34-year-old pilot will appear in court in September charged with unsafe operation of an aircraft. On July 31, the man put the helicopter down in the parking lot of a school across the street from the DQ in Tisdale, Saskatchewan, a farming town of 3,000 about 130 miles northeast of Saskatoon. According to the police report, the helicopter blew dust and debris around the business district.

“Investigation determined the landing was not an emergency: a passenger of the helicopter exited the aircraft and entered a nearby restaurant to buy an ice cream cake,” the police statement said. “Officers determined the pilot, a 34-year-old man from Leroy, was licensed to drive the helicopter, but that it was illegal to land it where he did.” Tisdale Mayor Al Jellicoe saw the landing and thought it was odd. He also noted that the school parking lot was empty and there was no real harm done. “I suppose that doesn’t make it right,” he told the CBC.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. For a country that in some regions relies on aviation, you would be amazed on how many rules unfriendly to GA Canada has.

    • It’s easy to forget that the original sense of “drive” was to push from behind (driving cattle, or a team of horses; driving a nail).
      In that respect, the word shouldn’t really apply to cars either!

    • OK, Karen. If you paid ANY attention to the byline you’d see this piece was written by one of aviation’s top 5 busiest and best living journalists who [unlike you] saw the abundant humor in this much-ado-about-nothing non-incident and wrote slightly tongue in cheek [also unlike you who wrote more foot in mouth].

  2. Unless your destination is the airport, aviation has a problem with getting you where you really need to be. If this R44 solution is illegal, what does that say about the future of personal VTOL aircraft?

    • The only thing “illegal”, ostensibly, was “unsafe” operation, but I think he will try to show that what he did was NOT demonstrably (or actually) unsafe.
      The problem with all such laws is that what looks unsafe to one person, say a cop, may be perfectly acceptable to someone with experience. It thus becomes more a matter of opinion than of fact.

      • At most, it was just an unwise thing to do, but I doubt it was truly illegal, and it certainly wasn’t necessarily unsafe. The whole point of a helicopter is that you can operate where airplanes cannot.

        I don’t know about the helicopter certification requirements in Canada, but in the US it’s actually a requirement that the training includes off-airport operations.

        • Off-airport operations is not the question.

          Besides, wouldn’t training/practice for off-airport operations – which most helicopter operations are in my region of the world, include consideration of blowing things around, ingesting small bits into the engine, and not endangering people on the ground?

          • That’s why I mentioned it as being unwise, though I doubt anyone on the ground was actually in danger and the debris that was blown around was probably exaggerated to some degree.

  3. Legal or not it looks like the landing was safe, if not prideful and obnoxious. If I was King of Canada I’d have a sense of humor about it.

    • Yah, perhaps did what one person claimed FAA did with the pilot who landed a Lear Jet on the straightaway/drag strip of Pacific Raceways/Seattle International south of Seattle circa 1970.
      “Just don’t do that again!”

      Looked to me like reasonable length, much clearway after liftoff, landing approach had been from that end (west). Landed early in the day, took off late in the day but race staff had to ensure surface clear (as they had to for racing anyway). A good drag strip and a nice piece of straightaway for the road racing course.

  4. Too many people with an over-rated sense of their importance, making stupid rules that are applied arbitrarily, such as the “police” in this story. Is their REALLY a law in this two-bit town against landing a helicopter where it landed? Just another town named “Resume Speed” in Canada… And they wouldn’t even notice if a drone with 4 or 6 turning propellers, that would be FAR more dangerous had landed there…

    • Ahem! read my post below about the dangers.

      I call horse output on your drone claim – obviously the type of drone/UAV you talk about is far smaller than the helicopter involved. Check your facts.

      • And with either type of device there is risk of people getting too close to it out of ignorance.

        Rotors of some helicopters are low in front – S76 for example, you do not approach from the front, and from the sides you have to keep your head down.

        And the UAV’s little rotors can bite, as the guy who tried to demonstrate his in a parking lot near a prison found out when he tried to grab it to hold it down and turn it off.

  5. The pilot should have his license yanked for a while, for:
    – blowing junk around, which could hurt someone or at least damage property like cars (media I read say much stuff was blown around)
    – flying a single-engine helicopter low over populated area

    As for whether or not landing was ‘illegal’, I recommend pontificators look into minimum altitudes in Canada. Probably varying with location, obviously out of densely populated areas helicopters do it as part of their work. The number 500 feet AGL comes to my faded memory from Canada and US.

    Typically pads at hospitals and in city are licensed heliports, such as:
    – beside hospital on Salt Spring Island
    – beside Victoria General Hospital in Saanich
    – Camel Point heliport in Victoria BC (where Helijet commuter flights land).
    Those may have somewhat lower minima than elsewhere, I know the pad beside SSI hospital has guidance/obstruction lights (trees in one direction), I forget VGH though the hospital building will be lit and I presume the new shopping centre across the street is lit – I know there is a sign prohibiting tall vehicles from the driveway between helipad and hospital when a helicopter is nearby. Camel Point approach may be from over the harbour as there are houses across the street.
    All those can be looked up, Helijet produces the approach plates with approval from NavCanada/TransportCanada.

    • I agree, people that fly those helicopter things are freakin nuts… lock them up.
      And the plane pilot people too… they are just as bad. Lock them all up!

  6. i Keith, it’s 1000′ feet above the highest obstacle in a built up area… “except for the purpose of taking off or landing”.

    Canada is no longer pretending to be a free country. There are countless rules, purposefully written poorly so they can be used as weapons against us citizens. Occasionally when your lawyer finds a way out for you, surprise, you are still changed because the crown prosecutor and the judge (who work for the same government) find you broke the “spirit” of the law. I can’t even go into my yard with my .22. I’m very rural, with 10 acres of bush and no neighbors. So yeah, a Heli landing off airport? That can’t be legal! Actually, it is, but don’t worry, because of this “incident” I assure you they are drafting legislation right now to ban in outright. Won’t somebody please think of the children???

      • True, you can tell I’m a fixed wing guy. Helicopters is 500′ over a built up area, unless taking off or landing.

        This is happening less and less due to economic constraints (heli’s are expensive), and if someone has not seen something like that before, well it must be illegal. 🙁

    • Thanks but “Keith, it’s 1000′ feet above the highest obstacle in a built up area” does not make sense for heliports, which probably are vetted as I describe for Helijet. (Who operate ambulance helicopters besides commuter runs.) Key is staying clear of obstacles, such as the hospitals I mentioned which are structures well above the helipad. Minima will apply of course, based on obstructions.

  7. I use to do this, so did the local news copters. They stopped regularly at a McDonalds for coffee and a quick breakfast sandwich before continuing out for traffic reporting.
    And if this gets charges… how do they think VTOL will ever work?
    They clearly are not near anyone or putting others in danger…

    • Which station where?
      I’d want to know what vetting they’ve done.

      In Seattle one TV station’s helicopter used a helipad on the roof of the station. My impression is they went back to the station for breaks. Tragically one day it fell onto the street as something went wrong just as it was lifting off.

  8. Do these people REALLY expect that every landing area that might be used by a helicopter be “government approved”? I fly helicopters–the advantage of a helicopter is that “the whole world is a potential landing area.” In this case, there was no traffic, no congestion, no parked cars. The helicopter pilot undoubtably surveyed the landing area for obstructions and wires. The operation was conducted safely.

    The helicopter pilot conceivably COULD be charged with trespass–but it’s unlikely, since they welcome walk in and drive in customers. I didn’t see any note saying the BUSINESS complained. Whose ox is being gored here? Not the business owner–only an “over-enthusiastic cop or town council in a rural community that seems to want to assert “control.”

    It brings up a big point for VTOL manned and unmanned aircraft–are we supposed to get “government permission” to operate on “non-designated landing areas?” There is a parallel here–SEAPLANES obviously take off and land on water–are we to get “prior permission” from the government or surrounding landowners before operating on water?

    Growing up in the 50s–a common comment was “There ain’t no law against it!” We seem to have lost that feeling of freedom–it is now “I’ll have to check with the government agencies to see if that is approved.”

    • You are exaggerating the context.

      Keep in mind junk was blown around by the landing.

      Keep in mind this is a single engine helicopter.

      And BTW, when did you interview the pilot to be so sure?

  9. The landing probably wasn’t the smartest thing the pilot could have done, but this sounds a little like the Canadian version of Barney Fife.

    • Canada is full of Barney Fife’s, they teach the police to charge everyone with everything and let the courts figure it out (see what sticks). This way they don’t have to think, or even be that familiar with the law. Now they enforce “the spirit of the law”.

    • “NIP it IN THE BUD!” (laugh)

      I’m surprised this happened in Saskatchewan. People there are pretty straightforward people. I spend a lot of time hunting and fishing there (at least up until the LAST YEAR!”)–if you think we have a dislike for Washington politics, they have an almost HATRED for Ottawa. In Canada, Provinces CAN seceed (remember, Quebec came within 6/10s of one percent not that many years ago–other Provinces asked “why didn’t WE get a vote on Quebec Secession?”–laugh).

      I’ve landed my Enstrom in fields near towns in Minnesota and Iowa often to pick up or drop off people–what’s the difference between that and patronizing a burger joint or other business?

      If THIS kind of “NIMBY” (“Not In MY Back Yard”) thinking is the norm, there won’t BE any helicopters–or VTOL “flying cars.”

      • Uh “I’ve landed my Enstrom in fields near towns in Minnesota and Iowa often to pick up or drop off people–what’s the difference between that and patronizing a burger joint or other business?” the difference is proximity to buildings and people plus blowing junk around.”

        • Landing on non-airfields by helicopters–it’s what helicopters DO!

          You seem to know nothing about helicopter ops. Buildings? Have you looked at the helistops in most major cities? Wall Street in NY? Rooftop operations? Sao Paulo Brazil is one of the busiest helicopter places in the world, due to traffic congestion on urban crime–every large building has a heliport.

          “Blowing junk around”. The article mentions “dust and debris”. Dust was obviously not a problem–nor was debris–no reports of it affecting the helicopter–“no harm, no foul.”

          “Keep in mind that this is a single-engine helicopter.” I guess that means that cities should ALSO try to regulate “single engine airplanes.” Perhaps you should ask your city council to prohibit them (and don’t forget gliders and balloons!” (sarcasm)

          The takeaway–THERE WAS NO DAMAGE–NO ACCIDENT–NOBODY HURT–ALL WITHIN THE LAW–yet you feel that YOU should be the arbiter of what the law SHOULD read?

          • You FAIL aviating by changing context and by an ‘it flew in it will fly out’ type of comment.

            You switch context from the environment of this incident to everything anywhere. I repeat that it was near buildings and people for no good reason.

            You aren’t worth more words that “Get off it!”

  10. More like “Monty Python”–excoriating the British government with the non-existent “Ministry of Silly Walks”–lampooning over-reaching government edicts.

    Nobody was hurt. LOOK at the photo–nobody around, no cars, certainly no “debris”. Nobody in danger (the Mayor was quoted as “the parking lot was empty.”) Contrary to the claim of “debris”–that wasn’t in the article–it mentioned only “dirt and dust.” (What NEXT–charging the Dairy Queen operator for having a “dirty and dusty” parking lot?)

    So a single “County Mountie” brings charges based on HIS OPINION that it was “dangerous”–when the facts say otherwise? Would his opinion have changed if it was a medical helicopter, law enforcement, or “government” helicopter? If this were to stand, we will have to get rid of all civil helicopters–they will cease to have any utility–if an airplane would do the job, one would use an airplane.

    Perhaps the NIMBY complainer should move a little FARTHER north in Canada, to an island in the middle of the lake–with no dock so he couldn’t be bothered–and a big sign that says NO HELICOPTERS OR FLOAT PLANES. (no mention of how he or she would get there, or get supplies or medical care.)

    • Other media clearly say debris was blown around.

      You FAIL piloting requirements by looking only at a photo of the ground after the landing or departure, not during the landing.

      This was not an emergency, I believe police would be restricting the landing are if it were, to keep speeding bicyclists out for example.

      I am quite familiar with helicopters and aviation, you are just a ranter. Shame.

  11. “ You FAIL piloting requirements by looking only at a photo of the ground after the landing or departure, not during the landing.”

    I’m looking at the same photo you are—no “debris” that you mention visible. How is it that YOU see the “debris” when it isn’t available for anyone else to see? Nobody used that word—you made it up. Do you have “superpowers”? Do YOU have photos not available to the rest of us?

    Do you really believe that landing a helicopter without “permission” from the police is “dangerous”?

    You say you are “familiar with helicopters”—that is a far reach from being a helicopter PILOT. PLEASE enlighten us with your special knowledge of these supposedly “dangerous” and unwritten laws—and your helicopter experience. —so those of us that DO own and operate helicopters can be aware of these unwritten laws and we can start disassembling these dangerous machines. (Or, you could just hide in your basement to avoid this apparent “terror”.). Some people spend their entire lives living in fear of events that don’t happen.

  12. I haven’t read all the comments so this might be duplicitous. But correct me if I’m wrong, but in the US this would be the FAA’s, and only three FAA’s domain, correct? They are the sole regulatory authority for to determine if something was unsafe, and may or may not refer the incident to the Justice Department, depending on the specific circumstances, correct?