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May 16th, 2012 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: A Swarm of Choppers

Why are there so many helicopters around the new light-rail bridge?

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall

Lately, I have noticed an increase in helicopters around the new light-rail bridge. The cops suggest asking the news stations, but no big news stories correspond to the time and place. Any idea why the skies are so noisy these days?

—Jessica D.

First, allow me to congratulate you on having reached a level of success and comfort in life that unidentified buzzing noises in the sky are your biggest challenge. That said, as a member of the international liberal-media-Illuminati-Herbalife conspiracy, if I told you what we’re really doing up there with our black helicopters and chemtrails and so on, I’d have to kill you. Hell, I may have to kill you anyway.

In the meantime, I called up the FAA’s Allen Kenitzer to find out what I could. “Our radar coverage [downtown] is limited by the West Hills, so at low altitudes it’s extremely unlikely that we’d have any radar data,” he said. Kenitzer also said you could try opening a Freedom of Information Act inquiry, which is government-ese for “ram it.”

There have to be flight plans on file somewhere, though, right? Surely you can’t just fly whenever and wherever you want without checking in with a control tower somewhere?

As it turns out, you can. If you’re taking off from a non-PDX helipad, not planning on any instrument flying and staying low enough to keep clear of jet traffic, you can just kind of buzz around and hope you don’t run into anybody.

Kenitzer noted it’s pretty common for construction firms to use helicopters for surveying big jobs. Yeah, sure. Personally, I’d suggest you think about what the difference is—really—between a full-size helicopter a mile away and a teeny-tiny one hovering just a few feet over your head. Forever. Just sayin’.

 
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