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Helicopter makes emergency landing in Palo Alto

Original post made on Mar 15, 2012

Nearly 100 feet from rush-hour traffic on Highway 101 near Embarcadero Road, a pilot approaching the Palo Alto Municipal Airport crash landed a Robinson R-22 helicopter about 4:45 p.m. Thursday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 15, 2012, 6:14 PM

Comments (65)

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm

1. Why does the story make an issue about her being female?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]


Posted by news, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm

There was an article yesterday about a woman crashing her car into a parking lot near Alma Street. No one questioned why the article mentioned that driver was a woman. I don't see why they shouldn't mention it here. If anything, this article has less information because the pilot's age is not disclosed, while yesterday's driver's age was printed.

I just hope they get get the "significantly damaged" helicopter out of the bay before it starts to leak various poisons into the water.


Posted by MidtownMom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Yeah .. same question. Why specific mention of "female" pilot. Editor - would you have said male pilot ? Probably not !


Posted by David, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm

If the pilot had been male, would it have been mentioned? Why is it relevant that the pilot was a woman?


Posted by Geesh, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2012 at 6:44 pm

1...maybe they reported the pilot as female because she was?

2...did you know that flying is 1,000% safer than driving?


Posted by Why?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm

> mentioning that this the pilot is female ..

Maybe this is another example of the so-called "war on women"?


Posted by Bob, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Sue Dremann's calls this an "emergency landing". Apparently the pilot learned to fly at the Buzz Lightyear Helicopter School (Their motto: "That's not flying, that's just falling with style.")

> The pilot was not injured but was treated on the scene by firefighters and released, he said.

So was this talented flying ace wasn't injured, but was treated by firefighters, anyway, just for giggles?

I think Sue's story should be transported Code 3 by PAFD to the Stanford English Department for emergency editing.


Posted by Joining The Fray, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm

The use of "female" jumped out at me too. "A pilot" was all that was necessary, even if the following pronouns, "she" and "her" were completely appropriate. It does seem Ms. Dremann felt the need to "highlight" gender as though it were particularly relevant. Maybe for some reason it was to her.


Posted by Update, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Palo Alto on Line has an article and picture of the accident.


Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm

rem is a registered user.

Hey you "turkeys" - It was "engine trouble". Male or female you are trained to SET IT DOWN....


Posted by FlyerV, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm

The pilot should be commended for landing the aircraft safely and, apparently, with little harm to the environment too.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Thank you to PAWeekly/PA Online for getting the fast facts out so promptly - this news IS relevant to PA - helps to get the basic details now (heard the helicopter from KTVU Channel 2 and heard the sirens and wanted to know where all this was - you were more specific than Channel 2)


Posted by Local female pilot, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm

The pilot did a great job setting her bird down without causing any damage to anyone other than her aircraft. It's what all pilots train to do, starting with primary flight training.

Too bad car drivers aren't trained so thoroughly.


Posted by Kathy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Come on "you guys"----you are really ridiculous re: this situation. Sometimes I am embarrassed to live in this town.


Posted by Female, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:26 pm

This arguing about reporting that she's female is insane. Yes, people do assume a pilot is male. It's just another tidbit of information. Get over it.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm



She did a good job--no casualties! well done.

It is very difficult to land a helicopter in an emergency without serious injury--as this is a one person helicopter the main threat is severe spinal injury--it has an effective fuel cut off.

The R-22 helicopter can be tricky in wet weather.

We used to fly them in the Australian outback--where rain was not a problem.

They are inexpensive--only $250,000 -therefore they very popular.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm

If they're tricky to fly in wet weather, maybe she shouldn't have been flying. Close the airport!!!!!!!!


Posted by Really?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm

The gender of the pilot just seems like an additional piece of information that adds to the story, IMO. And yes, had the pilot been male I surely would have expected that would have also been mentioned. Wow -- people in Palo Alto sure are sensitive. Anyone want some cheese with their whine?


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Why mention the pilot is female? It's a Freudian slip.

I'm surprised why anyone is asking.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I'm the one who originally asked. Did I say it was bad that it was mentioned? No. And I don't live in PA.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:07 pm

@Hmmmm,

Thank you. I stand corrected.

Since they selectively censored your original post, the only meaning one could get from it was the one the censors intended, not what you intended.




Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm

2. Why do so many pilots feel entitled to endanger us all w/their hobby?

CLOSE THE AIRPORT!


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Gotcha, OO. Thanks for the. Latification. Talk about sensitive whiners...pilots!


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm


For clarification-The R-22 helicopter can be tricky in wet weather--under freezing conditions-

-that problem has now been fixed with a carburetor heater.

In fact it is a great, cheap machine with control system that are easy for girls to use-

-as we have less upper and lower muscle strength.

For the same reason the vast majority of serious heavy motorcycle--and NFL players--etc- are male

Get over it-

-all mothers are female


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Sorry, Outside Observer, about my previous post. It should read "thank you for the clarification." I don't know what Latification is - a song by the Chili Peppers that's underrated?

You know how it is - hard to type while driving in slow traffic on 101...us drivers - we're so much worse than those amazing pilots that so often crash land nearby...


Posted by Sue Dremann, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Sue Dremann is a registered user.

The story was dictated by phone from the site in order to give our readers prompt information about this crash. The word "female" was used as a descriptor. I would call the pilot a male as well, if the pilot had been a man.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:47 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

I have to agree that inserting female seems a bit strange. A good barometer of intent is whether gender is relevant to the story. In this case, the "story" is that a helicopter pilot was able to avert catastrophe, not whether the pilot was male or female. On the other hand, a case could be made that a female vs. male pilot is more unusual, and thus perhaps worth mentioning. Can see multiple perspectives here.


Posted by skeptic, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm

The "online ebulletin" I received consisted of the first sentence of the press release. And yes, the word that jumped out at me was "female." If the pilot had been male, there would have been no such adjective because everyone would have assumed the pilot was a he.

After too many years hearing about lawyers and lady lawyers, engineers and women engineers, and the like, I would hope that a newspaper in a seemingly progressive community like ours would at least make a greater effort to avoid distinctions that serve primarily to remind people that a woman has a job that "should" be held by a man.

Maybe it's time to revive MCP as a label?


Posted by Bleezy, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm

How about this:

Web Link

"The FAA says the pilot, who was the only person on board, was not hurt. His name has not been released."

At least they didn't mention that she was a woman!


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Well, the story was written by a woman & as she mentioned upthread, it was a descriptor. But it sure jumped out at many of us, probably because there was little info. Now I want to know her name.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm

What an odd story, at 5:43pm today there were 2 large helicopters hovering over the Palo Alto airport area that I happened to get a picture of while I was photographing some birds by the baylands.

Was this the helicopter that is up there almost every day for lessons making a huge racket as it floods the whole airport area with loud noise?

I have also noticed in the last few days a lot of passenger jets are flying lower than average across the badlands, perhaps as they make their way to SJ Airport, but they are low and loud.


Posted by Me, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Anon, those were most likely news helicopters hovering.

Planes take-off and land into the wind. This means they are usually heading in a NW direction. When there is a storm, that means low pressure, and the winds change direction. You are seeing the planes make their approach to land at SJC.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2012 at 12:43 am

Hey "Me", you I know about San Jose Airport landings since I have flown out and returned here from there enough to notice it but the planes I have seen have been very low flying in the air, twice in the last few days. You hear them and think they are high, then they come out of the clouds and they seem very low. They do the same thing over Palo Alto at night enough to wake you up, but by the time most people notice it they go back to sleep.

I mostly think of News helicopters are lighter colored, and these were two largish helicopters hovering over the Palo Alto airport just off shore a bit.

You can catch some off things out there sometimes, like the takeoff of jets, the other day a fast jet took off fast from Moffett and at a 45 degree angle over the South Bay.

Then a year or two ago they were doing something to the power poles out in the bay, and they would fly people over to them on the end of a long cable and drop them off on top of the power towers where they were presumably doing inspections or some kind of work. I was quite amazed to see that or that no one mentioned it.


Posted by Anon, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2012 at 12:44 am

We should close all parking garages. Cars are dropping into them and endangering people are cars.

*sigh*


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2012 at 3:33 am

To anyone who is putting this as a "close the airport" argument, we have news helicopters, traffic helicopters, Stanford helicopters, Moffat helicopters flying over 101 and Palo Alto on a daily basis and any one of them could get engine trouble and need to be downed on a marshy area of Palo Alto.

This is not a big deal.

I would like to commend the pilot for being able to ditch the helicopter in a safe place without causing damage on the ground to person or property and being able to walk away. Great flying!!


Posted by ???, a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 16, 2012 at 7:59 am


If you want this article, which doesn't ID the protagonist, to sound even more strange, then leave out the gender completely. Plus, this article is not indicating "a women" did a bad job at something. Are you assuming the rental company is owned by a women? It sounds like her rented helicopter had a mechanical failure and "the pilot" gets credit for a "fine job of making the emergency landing."


Posted by Shut-It-Down, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2012 at 8:52 am

> any one of them could get engine trouble and need to be
> downed on a marshy area of Palo Alto.

The part about any/every "one of them" getting engine trouble is true.

The part about being "downed" in the marsh is fantasy. Helicopters have the "glide angle of a rock" and will go down wherever they go down. They have no magic powers to fly from the point of engine failure to "the marsh".

And the same is true for all for all of the aircraft that fly in/out of this poorly sited airport.

It's time to recognize that there are 300,000+ people living within five miles of this airport and that 85% of all plane crashes occur within five miles of an airport/destination. Maybe this pilot was lucky in being able to bring her helicopter down in the marshlands. But people living near by are luckier--since the damage she could have done to their homes/businesses would have been a lot worse than scaring a few marsh birds, and matting down some marsh plants.

Time to shut this airport down. Move the traffic to Moffett Field, where there is much more room, and longer runways.


Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2012 at 9:04 am

"Female" pilot disappearance --

Anyone know how long it was before Palo Alto Online made the update?

Had I read the article sooner, I'd have looked for the "report objectionable writing" button, clicked, and sent.


Posted by Me, a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2012 at 9:47 am

If a helicopter is just hovering, it is most likely a news helicopter.

"I mostly think of News helicopters are lighter colored"
I don't know where you got that idea. I know for a fact the KGO helicopter is RED and channel 7's is dark blue.


Posted by Wondering..., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2012 at 11:07 am

What I want to know is was the gender of the helicopter?

Clearly the intent of the article was to report a helicopter crash, not an attack on women. Good gravy people...relax, lighten up and breathe.


Posted by Old Town Paly Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2012 at 11:08 am

Seriously? Why questioning the reporting of the fact that it was a female pilot? You have nothing better to do today? Facts are facts that's all! Geeez trying to make more of that report than it is seems to me you have way too much time on your hands!


Posted by ??, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2012 at 11:23 am

What I don't' understand is why emergency personnel got conflicting information as to what happened. Surely the most accurate was the call from the control tower. The should have been able to give co-ordinates of where they last communication or the helicopter went down. Surely the least accurate would probably all the "OMG I'm driving on 101 and a 'copter went down somewhere ahead of me" calls to 911?


Posted by 2many2sensitive, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 16, 2012 at 11:24 am

RE reporting that the pilot was female.
I had a completely different take on it.
I associated "female" with "helicopter" (most people do not think of female pilots, must less female helicopter pilots).
I did NOT associate "female" with "crash" but rather with "safe landing".

Here is a woman flying a device typically associated with (macho) men. Good for her! Perhaps a role model; an instance in which sterotypes might be uncovered and reduced. So I think the use of 'she' is more than appropriate.

Let's lighten up, folks.


Posted by Bemused, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2012 at 11:27 am

Am I missing something? I don't see the actual word "female" in the story, but simply the mention of "she". That is no different than other news stories that mention "he". Otherwise the writer would need to continually insert "the pilot". Seems pretty standard writing to me.


Posted by karen, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 16, 2012 at 11:35 am

Who cares if it was a man or woman? They landed it safely, no one was hurt...yhats all that matters. Get over yourselves on here!


Posted by Dennis, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 16, 2012 at 11:37 am

Photo #2, w/the birds taking flight, says it all.


Posted by Johnson, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 16, 2012 at 11:43 am

It's scary when a helicopter's engine fails or it loses drive to its rotors -- no big wings to glide on -- only the narrow rotor blades. She did well coming out non-injured. As for me, I would've had my attention heightened to see a woman instead of a man emerging from the downed copter. It's a natural human interest thing. I wonder how much directional control the pilot has over the direction a copter takes when it loses rotor power. Could she have landed on Hwy. 101? There are a lot of helicopters parked at the San Carlos airport.


Posted by J_Barter, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm

As someone who has about 10 hours on this helicopter (N290SH), I feel that I should emphasize the emphasis on emergency training that helicopter flying entails. Picking up how to operate an helicopter normally is relatively simple, but pilots must train exhaustively on how to land safely in an emergency scenario. I have many memories of practicing "engine out" scenarios on this helicopter at Hayward airport (where the operator of this helicopter typically flies in the interest of traffic abatement). As was mentioned above, helicopters in an engine-out scenario do not have a great glide angle compared to most airplanes, but it is certainly enough to guide yourself to saftey (looking at the pictures, I am guessing the pilot was able to put the helicopter on land instead of water thanks to a helicopter's engine-out capabilities). While I am saddened over the loss of a helicopter I have many fond memories in, I feel that it should be emphasized that the 10-15 minute pre-flight mechanical checks before each flight and the rigorous training that each pilot undergoes really do go a long way to make sure things like this don't happen a lot, and when they do happen, they resolve themselves as happily as possible.


Posted by Hulkamania, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Was it a Black Helicopter?


Posted by To Bemused, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm

The article has been updated so the comments don't accurately reflect it now.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:15 pm

From another plane crash story - heavy usage of "he"...can we get over this now please?

"The 26-year-old pilot of the single-engine Cessna 172P failed to maintain directional control during a landing roll, according to an Aug. 22 probable-cause report.

The pilot said he was descending toward the runway at Palo Alto Airport at 2:10 p.m. after a flight from Madera, Calif., when the accident occurred in clear weather. He had adjusted for a crosswind while the plane was 35 to 40 feet above the runway, then reduced power to idle. When he was just two feet off the ground preparing to land the plane's stall-warning horn sounded and the nose of the plane began to veer to the left, according to the report.

After the plane touched down, the pilot applied his right rudder and the plane veered off to the right. The airplane exited the right side of the runway and struck a pipe that was protruding from the ground, substantially damaging the nose gear and firewall. The pilot was not injured."


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm

The other two local newspapers printed photos of the female pilot. The Palo Alto Weekly didn't print a photo of the pilot but described her as female in words instead of a photo. Should the other newspapers have censored their photos?


Posted by Bobby Riggs, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm

"Why did they have to say it was a woman!?!?!Why did they have to say it was a woman!?!?!"

Whoa! Touch-ee!
Anyway, God made the sky blue, not pink. Darwin and gravity won this struggle.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Well...she was unlicensed for copters and nearly hit a jogger, according to other news sources.


Posted by BKM, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2012 at 6:56 pm

While in this day and age, mentioning the gender has no relevance here, maybe the reporter disclosed it because she kicked butt, landing the chopper without killing anyone or getting killed. Those buggers have no gliding capability. They just go straight down. That's why I stick with aircraft that can be landed in the Hudson River without functioning engines.


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Please, save the "attagirls" for the congratulatory drinks session. This is tiresome.

Flying's 1000 x safer than driving? Data, please.


Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 18, 2012 at 11:25 am

People never seem to get their knickers in a knot when news items frequently refer to male nurses. Why is a female pilot such touchy subject?


Posted by Jim_H, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm

A quote from a previous comment:

"2. Why do so many pilots feel entitled to endanger us all w/their stupid hobby?"

I'm sure that all the patients with life-threatening illnesses or injuries that are around today because of life-flights from Palo Alto Airport to Stanford Hospital would totally agree that learning to fly a helicopter is a reckless, unneeded "amusement".

Get real. Want to save lives? Close Embarcadero Road, Oregon Expressway, US101.

My congratulations to a brave pilot who made the best out of a bad situation.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm

No problem with medical helicopters- I have 2 friends who are on those flights as medical personnel and it's a calculated but necessary risk. This pilot wasn't one of those - she wasn't even licensed. Trying to make this about cars doesn't cut it, either - it's a useless ruse.


Posted by Shut-It-Down, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2012 at 9:06 am

People keep claiming that the Palo Alto Airport is important for LifeFlight, but the web-page hosted by the Stanford Hospital doesn't show any pictures of helicopters taking off, or landing, at the Palo Alto facility. The pictures below seem to show a helipad on/near the Stanford Hospital--

Web Link

So .. do Helicopters fly patients directly to the Hospital? How many LifeFlight Helicopters actually do originate/terminate at the Palo Alto Airport?

Of course, that leaves any transports using small planes, but those could easily be handled at Moffett Field, or San Carlos.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2012 at 9:40 am

And where do you think these emergency helicopter pilots learn to fly? Do you think they are all military trained? Do you think all these commercial helicopter services, traffic helicopter pilots, news helicopter pilots, etc. are military trained?

I still say well done to the pilot for using her training to successfully land a helicopter with engine problems out of harms way.


Posted by Shut-It-Down, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2012 at 11:32 am

> And where do you think these emergency helicopter
> pilots learn to fly?

Anywhere they can .. which means that the Palo Alto Airport is not the only place that flight instruction is available. Moffett Field would be a much better place than the site of the current Palo Alto Airport.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm

LIfeflight has nothing to do w/PA Airport. Close it down!


Posted by advocate of learning, a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 24, 2012 at 4:17 am

While it might be true that Moffet would be a better place, it's not licensed for private pilot training. If you want people to switch to there, let's create the alternative before trying to get the active one removed. If every complainer had their way, there wouldn't be an airport left!


Posted by Kathy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I'm guessing that the airport has been there longer than anyone saying it shouldn't be there. Funny how people move into an area with an airport that had been there for fifty years and then start screaming that the airport needs to go.


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