Wolfabilene Updates

 

Unable to demonstrate their helicopter outside due to FAA restrictions, the crew from Cedar Ridge Aviation this week was able to fly inside the Taylor County Coliseum.

 

During the two-day Texas Farm Ranch Wildlife Expo, it was hard to miss the helicopter sitting atop a tanker truck in the Coliseum. It overlooked the tractors, feral hog trappers and ranch land agents in the trade show.

 

Passersby look at the helicopter sitting atop a trailer owned by Cedar Ridge Aviation during Tuesday's Texas Farm Ranch Wildlife Expo. The helicopter was brought into the building, then flown into position.

Passersby look at the helicopter sitting atop a trailer owned by Cedar Ridge Aviation during Tuesday's Texas Farm Ranch Wildlife Expo. The helicopter was brought into the building, then flown into position. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)

 

The top of the truck stands at least 10 feet from the floor. The helicopter stood about six to seven feet above that.

 

But no crane or team of men lifted it into place. According to Abilene Chamber of Commerce President Doug Peters, the helicopter was flown into position from a trailer after the airship was brought inside the building.

 

“They were insured, and it was it was approached a lot like the monster trucks being inside the Expo Center, (it was) handled kind of the same way,” Peters said. “Everybody was clear, they lifted it off of a trailer and just sat it on top of that thing. It didn't move more than probably 15 feet.”

 

Peters said the short flight was Saturday, before any other vendors had set up. Rochelle Johnson, Taylor County Expo Center’s general manager, confirmed the helicopter was flown inside the building.

 

“They provided me with a certificate of liability insurance in regard of doing that. I don't know if it's legal or not,” she said. “They provided me with a certificate of liability insurance from their insurance company, so that if in any way, shape or form the Coliseum was damaged, they were liable.”

 

Justin Tiemann, fire marshal for the Abilene Fire Department, said the AFD was asked to sign off on the vendor area but it's the Federal Aviation Administration that OKs helicopter requests.

 

Permission was granted, he said. 

 

"The FAA gave their full permission. It was legal on their end," Tiemann said. The Reporter-News was unable to reach the FAA for more information on the process.

 

Johnson said the distance from the floor to the ceiling inside the Coliseum is 40 feet. Given the combined height of the truck and the helicopter, that left just over an 24 feet from the top of the aircraft to the overhead ceiling tiles once it had landed on the truck.

 

A Cedar Ridge Aviation helicopter rests atop a tanker truck as visitors stroll past it and tractors Tuesday a the  Texas Farm Ranch Wildlife Expo. It has been reported that a pilot flew the helicopter onto the truck while inside the building.

A Cedar Ridge Aviation helicopter rests atop a tanker truck as visitors stroll past it and tractors Tuesday a the Texas Farm Ranch Wildlife Expo. It has been reported that a pilot flew the helicopter onto the truck while inside the building. (Photo: Ronald W. Erdrich/Reporter-News)

 

“I was not alarmed by it; the helicopter obviously was going into the Coliseum,” she continued. “They had been here before and had looked at various places to actually have the helicopter, whether it be in the building or staged outside on the grounds somewhere.”

 

The FAA Code of Regulations 91.119, Subpart B--Flight Rules allows that helicopters can be flown closer than 500 feet to any structure “if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface.”

 

“They are precision flyers, I can tell you that,” Peters said. “But we made sure that they were insured in case there was some damage to the building, and there wasn't.”

 

During Thursday’s Agriculture Scholarship Luncheon, emcee Lynn Lawhon alluded to a video circulating of the flight. Peters said he had not seen the video, nor had he witnessed the flight itself.

 

“I think it was probably the fastest dusting of that building in the last 50 years, it (probably) looked like a sandstorm,” Peters said.

 

The Coliseum is due upgrading with funds approved by Taylor County voters. The $55 million project was organized into three phases, with the Coliseum improvements coming last.

 

 

By: Ronald W. Erdrich

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