Pikes Peak Helicopter Crash Injures Audi Commercial Film Crew
Last Friday saw a motor vehicle accident of a slightly unusual nature — a helicopter crash. The chopper went down with a full film crew aboard during filming of a “driverless car” commercial for Audi. MSNBC reports the accident’s details:
A helicopter carrying a crew filming a ‘driverless car’ commercial crashed Friday about a mile from the summit of Pikes Peak, injuring at least four people, NBC affiliates in Colorado reported. KOAA of Pueblo reported that the pilot was airlifted off the mountain and was in fair condition at a hospital. The three others on board had minor injuries and were reported in good condition. KUSA of Denver said the pilot was former SKY9 pilot Jim Dirker.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said the crash occurred between 7 and 7:30 a.m. along the highway near the top of Pikes Peak, KUSA reported.
While it may seem unusual at first glance, helicopter crashes are more common than one would expect around the Pikes Peak area, especially during the summertime, where several accidents have occurred in conjunction with the annual hill-climb race held on the mountain.
Jerry Garrett, a writer for The New York Times, tells us a bit about the “driverless car” in his coverage of the story:
An Audi spokesman, Brad Stertz, said, ‘The film crew was shooting a test run of the ‘Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak,’ a joint program involving Audi, the Electronic Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif., and Stanford University. The goal of the project involves ascending Pikes Peak autonomously without a driver behind the wheel to demonstrate the capabilities of advanced driver assistance systems and GPS.’
Garrett also tells us about why helicopter crashes seem to be so much more frequent around Pikes Peak than one would expect. Basically, the higher you go the thinner the air becomes. That makes it much more difficult for the chopper to maintain lift, among other issues. In order to operate at those heights, special clearance is required. Attempts to hover or fly at slower speeds tends to make the aircraft stall. Of course, hovering and slow flying are part of shooting a commercial like this one.
Audi has stopped the program for now, but the company spokespeople had stated that it plans to resume at the unspecified date. Meanwhile, the investigation into the cause of the accident continues — with no word yet on the suspected cause.