Penn State Tailgating
A low-flying helicopter issued from Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) has prompted a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigation. The incident occurred on Saturday, September 29, 2018, at Penn State University. The helicopter was attempting to control unruly tailgaters.
On Thursday, October 4, Penn State local news said that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the state’s use of helicopters to curb tailgating. The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) and Barstool Penn State (unofficially associated with the university) both commented on the helicopter via Twitter.
Barstool Penn State posted a video showing the helicopter flying low to the ground. The caption reads, “State Police flew a helicopter very low over tailgates sending tents grills and other debris flying.”
PSP acknowledged the incident and issued an apology, stating they are cooperating with the FAA investigation. PSP is conducting “an internal review of the incident” as well.
“A helicopter from PSP Aviation Section attempted to disperse a large, unruly crowd via loudspeaker after orders from troops on the ground and the Tactical Mounted Section were ignored,” PSP said. “The was no intent by the pilot or supervisors on the ground to disturb property, and the department regrets any damage caused as a result.”
Providing more information on the helicopters, PSP said that the Pennsylvania State Police Aviation Unit has flow 1,841 missions in 2017 and the helicopter fleet is composed of nine helicopters and five fixed-wing aircraft. PSP also said, “safety is the top priority” of the unit.
Details of the FAA investigation have not been released at this time.
The helicopter incident occurred just outside the football stadium at Penn State. The incident occurred at around 4 p.m. which was before the game’s kickoff. The police said that the troopers were called back to de-escalate the unruly crowd and it was decided to use a helicopter instead.
A spokesperson for Penn State said that there will not be more helicopters to make crowd announcements until the helicopter incident has been fully resolved.
A spokesperson claimed numerous law violations had occurred and there were threats of safety because of the crowd.
According to court documentation, one arrest was made of 21-year-old Joseph Michael Oleynik; he was charged with a felony of striking a police horse and with a misdemeanor for resisting arrest. An officer sustained a broken hand during an attempt to subdue Olevnik.
Chris Buchignani – who works with the pregame show – expressed his disapproval on Twitter. Buchignani said, “I hope President Barron & @penn_state will show leadership & not let today’s police statement be the last word on Saturday’s weaponization of a helicopter to disperse allegedly unruly tailgaters. Disproportionate, unacceptable use of force. Unnecessarily dangerous.”
The FAA has regulations on safe altitudes for a helicopter to fly. According to these regulations, a pilot should maintain an altitude of 1,000 feet (304 meters) above places with lots of people, including open-air gatherings. However, in certain situations, a helicopter can be flown lower if done safely, according to FAA approved routes and altitudes.