First it was a rumor. Next pictures and reports began to arrive from various sources in Himalaya. Then we got a video! Even before the official report was released, the word of a chopper landing on Everest stirred the world. The event caused a flood of awed emails to ExWeb. And then a debate - hilarious at times: That's not Everest! That's not the summit! That's not a landing...
Was it in fact a chopper at all?! Confused, we stared at the pictures: In spite of what we were seeing - was the world still flat?
Anywhere we turned, people had opinions and something to say. In the end, Everest historian Jochen Hemmleb set the mountain - and the summit - straight. That's when Bill Lougheed; "Mallory & Irvine" Everest research colleague of Dr. Pete Poston (Jochen's research friend) at Western Oregon University threw in the next question: Landing or not?
"An aircraft is considered 'landed' when all wheels (or skids for helicopters) are in full contact with the ground and are motionless with respect to it," he wrote and ruled a 'right skid touchdown' leaving the final word for the Federal Aviation Authorities.
"I have not landed at the peak of Mt. Everest"
This is when a press release from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal arrived, and the guys were not happy:
"With regard to the issue concerning the landing of the Euro Copter helicopter at the summit of Mt. Everest against the permission granted to the rotorcraft to only carry out a test flight over the Everest region, the probe-in committee of CAAN (Investigation Committee), formed in the aftermath of the incident, inquired of M. Disier Desalle, the Captain of the Test Flight about the matter."
"In a written statement submitted to the Committee, Capt. Desalle said, 'I have not landed at the peak of Mt. Everest. Rather, I only hovered twice over the peak, as it was impossible to land there due to the difficult terrain of the summit'."
"The written statement further revealed that the captain had to make an emergency landing on the southern slope, about 1000 meter below the summit of the Everest, due to the prevailing adverse weather condition. The above statement completely nullifies the saying that the helicopter has ever landed at the top of the highest peak of the world."
"Hypothetical, illusive and hence misleading!"
"CAAN expresses its deep concern over the release of an imaginary statement by prestigious Euro Copter, despite the fact that neither had the helicopter operator requested for landing permission at the peak nor it had been provided with any permission to do so. CAAN holds such a release highly objectionable."
"Taking into consideration the impulsiveness of the received information which pertained to the violation of the prescribed terms and conditions with regard to the test flight operations by helicopters, CAAN had immediately curbed that test flight operation and compelled the helicopter to return to Kathmandu at the earliest. "
"Therefore, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal clearly states to all concerned that the news - - contained in the World Premiere as issued by Euro Copter on 24 May 2005 - -about the landing of Euro Copter owned AS 350 B3 helicopter at the top of the world is hypothetical, illusive and hence misleading."
Oops? So that was that, right? No landing.
A pilot strikes back
"Hold your horses!" shouts a last minute mail from a Commercial Pilot in helicopters and airplanes, with some high altitude physiology, climbing, medical, and rescue experience: "That statement issued by the CAAN was widespread by the Indo-Asian News Service. Their reporting seems a little biased, nationalistic (jingoistic even), and defensive of the Indian Air Forces recent high altitude helicopter efforts."
And then came some hard facts: Who rules what? What is a landing? Permit or not? And - Eurocopters reply to CAAN.
Climbers are obviously not the only ones at times forced to defend their accomplishments. Read part 2 of Everest Mystery Chopper's battle for summit on Monday!
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