FAA Action -- Pilots, Mechanics
"Hero" Chopper Pilot Rapped
One man's recklessness is another's heroism and striking the balance isn't always easy. Such was the dilemma facing the FAA in the case of Jeremy Johnson, a young Utah helicopter pilot who saved a family from a raging river, helped local officials control the flooding by ferrying supplies and even raised $20,000 in relief funds by donating money charged for sightseeing flights over the flood-ravaged area. Many of those flights were in violation of one regulation or another but the FAA has given Johnson the benefit of the doubt, and a "letter of admonishment" on his file is the only price he'll pay. "There were no sanctions, as such, in this case due to the guy's track record and his intent," said FAA spokesman Mike Fergus. When the Santa Clara River burst its banks in January after record rainfall, Johnson, a private pilot, was first on the scene to pluck a family to safety from their riverfront property. He flew numerous missions over the next few days, including a hop across the river with an explosives expert, complete with explosives, to blow up a blockage that threatened to make flooding even worse. He wasn't supposed to carry explosives without approval from the FAA and that's what resulted in the letter of admonishment. The fundraising flights were also a violation because Johnson didn't give the required seven-day advance notice to the FAA. Johnson has since completed his commercial rating and undergone recurrent training and if he has a clean record for two years the letter will be removed from his file. "I felt like they [FAA] were really good with me," Johnson said, adding agency officials showed him a sheaf of letters of support they received when news of possible sanctions hit the media.