Power lines can be virtually invisible from the air. The trick to avoiding them is, paradoxically, not to try to find them. Instead, the pilot should look for the towers from which they are strung. Once the pilot has the towers in sight, he should choose one and fly directly over it, rather than between them. By flying over one of the towers the pilot can be assured of avoiding the wires, since no wires are strung higher than the tower itself.
In November 2009, a Piasecki helicopter struck high tension wires shortly after departing from Adelanto airport as it headed for an airshow in Riverside, California. The helicopter crashed and burned, and all three aboard were killed.
We represented Colleen Goble, the widow of one of the pilots on board the helicopter. Yesterday, a jury in San Bernardino county, California rendered a $10 million verdict in her favor against the estate of Joseph Pike, who was the other pilot in the helicopter and the helicopter’s owner. The jury determined that Pike was the pilot in command at the time of the accident.
Pike, a well-known flight instructor with over 12,000 hours of flight time, trained his students to never fly between electrical towers. Rather, he taught his student to pick one tower and fly over it. On the day of the accident, however, Pike chose to “split the towers” and ended up in the wires.
Pike’s estate had argued that forensic evidence showed that Goble, not Pike, was at the controls. Pike’s estate also argued that the lines’ owner, the city of Los Angeles, should have installed orange marker balls on the lines to make them visible. Pike’s estate had sued both Goble and the city of Los Angeles but dismissed both those claims shortly before trial.
Goble was a vintage helicopter buff. He worked for a medical technology company and held several patents. His work had been featured on National Geographic Television and had been displayed in the Smithsonian. He was 58. The couple lived in Connecticut and had no children.
The name of the case is Goble v. Estate of Pike. The judge was the Honorable Steve Malone.