I wanted to let everyone know the details of the Mike V. incident before the rumor mill runs amok. Rather than retyping everything, I'm going to cut-and-paste a post I put on the issue in another forum. Thanks for your indulgence.
Mike was photographing a prominent pilot during a demo flight today. Yes, the winds were high, and blowing directly into the flight line (a cross-wind). The pilot in question was flying a typical demo (nothing out of the ordinary), and crashed his helicopter. He hit hold when the heli hit the ground (I had heard that it was a radio lockout that caused the initial crash, but I've not been able to confirm). After having already hit the ground and having the pilot hit throttle hold, the bird ricocheted off the ground (it was flying fast) and bounced into Mike Velez. Mike saw it coming from his vantage point and was able to turn his back to it to minimize injury. Mike got a small cut on the back of his left leg which required three stitches, and a "raspberry" on his back from the inpact of the main portion of the helicopter. Mike was back at IRCHA within an hour or so after the incident, and is doing fine. We walked around for the rest of the afternoon, photographed some more, and even went out to dinner afterwards.
The incident was not the kind of "Careless Pilot Acts Like Jackass And Hits Mike Velez" event that some might have you believe. (I'm not pointing fingers at anyone, so please don't react as such.) It was a simple accident, and it just so happened that Mike was in the line of the tumbling wreckage. If Mike had been photographing from a different vantage point, this would all be a non-issue, and noone would be making a stink about it. The pilot involved spoke with me later in the day and was terribly upset about Mike being injured. There are no hard feelings between Mike and the pilot. I would ask (on the behalf of the pilot involved) that people be careful to not overreact and start casting aspersions based on heresay and conjecture.
I've not named the pilot in question, because during my conversation with him afterwards, he expressed a concern about online retaliation, even if in good-natured humor. The event was very upsetting for the pilot involved, who was/is more concerned about Mike Velez's safety. I would respectfully ask that when his identity does become known in time, that the members of the online community give him some latitude. The situation was upsetting enough for him as it was.
As for Dino, hs accident was unfortunate for certain, but still an accident. Dino was back at IRCHA today with injuries, but thankfully he will recover. To my knowledge, Jeff Fassbinder was not in injured in the incident. The incident with Dino was on Thursday, the incident with Mike was on Friday.
Instead of turning these two events into a rallying point for argument and supposition, let's focus on the fact that both men are okay, and take these incidences as a reminder to all of us that model helicpters are not "toys" - they are serious pieces of hardware that must be treated with respect at all times.
Fly safely, everyone,
Editor-At-Large, RC Heli magazine