A brief rant.
One of my Twiiter friends, @Vatsek, tweeted the following to me last night:
Have you seen this? Helicopter crashes at Texas A&M, killing one — CNN News web page
First of all, I do want to make it clear to folks that I don’t normally go out of my way to track down news stories about helicopter crashes — unless they’re local or there’s a chance I might know the pilot. But since @Vatsek tweeted it to me, I figured I’d better check it out to see why he’d flagged it. I found the article on CNN.com, “Helicopter crashes at Texas A&M, killing one.”
It was a brief piece with an overhead view of what looked like a helicopter that someone with a very large foot had stepped on. Included in the text were these sentences:
…The copter, which was heavily damaged, was attempting to take off when it crashed. A rudder apparently failed, the university statement said….
“All of the sudden, he dropped straight back down into the ground,” [a witness said]…
I have two problems with these statements:
- A standard helicopter does not have a “rudder.” It has a tail rotor, which is controlled with anti-torque pedals. Those pedals resemble rudder pedals on an airplane, but they are not rudder pedals because a helicopter does not have a rudder.
- If a helicopter’s tail rotor (anti-torque system) failed, the helicopter would not come “straight down.” It would be spinning like crazy. That’s because the tail rotor prevents it from spinning like crazy. If it failed, it would spin. And it’s pretty clear from the photo in the article that the helicopter was not spinning like crazy when it hit the ground.
This is yet another example of the media speculating, with absolutely no knowledge, about the cause of an accident, spreading misinformation among the public. What’s even worse about this is that if they asked any helicopter pilot — even a new student pilot — to fact check their story, they could have gotten it corrected with, at the very least, the proper terminology for the tail rotor/anti-torque system.