Lights, Camera, Action!

FAA Enforcement in the Making By Randy Rowles

Lately, I am seeing an increased number of videos voluntarily posted to social media sites that clearly show pilots conducting flights contrary to FAA regulations. For this article, I am going to focus my examples within the business of helicopter hog hunting.

Recently, I was watching a video of a pilot conducting low-level helicopter hog hunting activities. This alone is not an earth- shattering event. However, it was only a matter of months prior that I had conducted a private-pilot helicopter certification exam for this pilot in the same helicopter being flown in the video. What made matters worse was the video’s purpose; it was a marketing ad for a commercial hog hunting company. A simple check of customer comments on the company’s website made it easy to validate that the pilot I had recently certified was providing revenue flights to paying customers.

My decision to engage the FAA regarding such actions would be based upon a simple moral act: Would the pilot be honest with me? In this case, he immediately admitted the wrongdoing and assured me this would not happen again.

Within the same video previously mentioned, a passenger recorded a flight segment that started at one location and after about five minutes of flight time ended at another location for a pre-planned luncheon for the group. In this case, the flight was clearly a Part 135 operation. The issues with this video related to Part 135 operations: no briefing, no checklist usage, flight well

Randy Rowles has been an FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds an FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award. Rowles is currently the owner of the Helicopter Institute. He can be reached at

If you have any comments or questions, please let me know at

74 Mar/Apr 2021

below the minimum set in 135.203(b) of 300 feet (agl), etc. Of course, this operator does not hold a Part 135 certificate, so the entire act is a violation.

If conducting flight operations contrary to FARs is not enough, several videos showing clear damage to an aircraft while in-flight meet both FAA and NTSB definitions of an aircraft accident and are shown with post-incident commentary by the pilot. In many cases, the comments from the pilot make the occurrence seem like a badge of honor within their industry segment’s pilot ranks.

One such incident involved a shotgun blast to the end of a main rotor blade while in a steep left turn. The video replayed this event in slow motion, where you clearly see the end of the main rotor leave the aircraft in concurrence with the firing of the shotgun. Essentially, this was considered worthy of social media “likes” and posted accordingly.

When I engaged the company owner about the video, his answer was simply, “This happens once in awhile.” Although this incident was recorded and released because it was “cool,” someone failed to notify the regulators; that’s a clear violation of regulatory guidance based upon the definition of an “Accident Aircraft.”

Social media provides an opportunity for companies to highlight the quality and uniqueness of their operations to entice potential clients and opportunities.

The fact that helicopter industry professionals are engaged in activities blatantly contrary to regulations is bad enough, but recording such events and posting credible evidence of such events reflects ignorance and blatant disregard for safety and regulatory oversight.

Heed my warning: the FAA is watching too!

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76