Full-size heli to the rescue!

Full-size heli to the rescue!
This video shows a full-size helicopter rescuing an RC P-51 that’s stranded in a treetop. The RC pilot is clearly grateful for the help but it raises a lot of questions. Was this safe? Is any RC plane worth this risk? And why is the helicopter pilot smoking a cigarette during all of this? This video came out 10 years ago, but there are lessons to be learned. We’re big believers in “safety first,” but let us know what you think! Editor’s note: there is some adult language in this video.

Updated: June 29, 2023 — 3:21 PM


  1. I was at the 1976 FAI Free Flight team selection in Hastings Minnesota. Conditions were very windy and planes were going into large cornfields. Two men in an Aeronca Chief were spotting planes for contestants. The plane was at low altitude making tight turns when the inevitable happened the plane stalled and crashed bursting into flames. killing both men. It can happen, you have to think is it worth it.

  2. If the guy in the helicopter wants to spend a few minutes helping someone out, of course it’s worth it. I’m not rotary qualified, but he seemed like he was very aware of the situation and what the retrieval and landing entailed. This is an example of “old school nice”, something the world needs more of these days. As far as the cigarette, most light aircraft came equipped with ashtrays until the mid 90’s (an estimation). Other than the Egypt Air Pilot in 2016 who mixed his cig with his oxygen, and another event in 1935 (both post crash speculation) I am not aware of any aircraft disasters caused by cigarette smoking inside. It’s his aircraft, if he wants to smoke in it, he has every right to do so.

    Also, it is indeed a sad story about the Aeronca Chief above. It is important to remember that it was the pilot who exceeded the critical angle of attack and failed to maintain coordination while maneuvering close to the ground. That incident was solely on the pilot, and the modelers or others on the ground are in no way responsible for his actions or the consequences of the loss of control. It may be semantics, but that incident was not inevitable.

    1. Muy bien eso demuestra un piloto con experiencia y dispuesto a ayudar a los demás sencillo no vio gran riesgo para el rescate

  3. Licensed PP since 1960, and know the limitations of craft I am flying. I can fly rotors, but not licensed for them. this rescue was easy as pie for the PIC..

  4. skill i wish i had. im to busy working for the bank. i do fly and would be ,TRIPPIN, if someone got my model out of a tree. You dont see that everyday!

  5. Great job. Everything in life has risk. Asses the risk, make a decision and go for it. Job well done.

  6. This video is pretty old, I saw it first quite a few years back. But I absolutely love the instructor’s demeanor and disposition. He is obviously a master at operating the helicopter, and yet takes all proper precautions. He transfers control from the student correctly, he is aware of the dangers of the tail rotor coming in contact with something and verbalizes his plan to mitigate the risk. He is the epitome of what a good instructor should be. He knows the limitations of his helicopter and operates within those limitations, and uses the helicopter to effect the rescue of an expensive model that likely would have been lost had he not. This is what being good at what you do is all about. People who think that a small risk is not worth the reward should stay at home in bed.

  7. I could not agree more concerning the risk involved not being worth it. Especially considering the plane they took out of the tree. Probably an ARF.

    1. I’m with you. No hanger nine arf is worth a life. Now if it had been a 1/3rd scale BUSA with a Moki…..still no.lol

  8. Not sure why it wouldn’t be safe unless the chopper had engine trouble. He was constantly aware of the location of his tail rotor.

    He’s smoking because the pilot says when the smoking lamp is lit, and he’s the pilot. Only commercial aircraft do not allow smoking. Secondly, he doesn’t care about his health.

    His language could use some help!

  9. Safe to what degree. Getting out of bed in the morning carries some degree of risk. Would I ride with that pilot? Yes. But consider, I was a door gunner at one point. Weigh the risk, make your choice. Living my life in fear of what could happen is not a choice I’m prepared to make. I’m 76. I’ve been places and done things you only wish you could do. At some point I will die, but you will darn sure know I was there.

  10. I personally don’t worry about what other people are doing unless it’s directed at me

  11. I’m surprised he spotted the P-51 crashing into the tree top. Hats off for the rescue. Certainly made some memories for everyone involved. Looking at some of his other videos, he’s quite a character. I agree that the language was a bit of a downer. Nevertheless was a very cool thing to do.

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