[UPDATE Monday: PG&E Claims Helicopter] Unclaimed Helicopter Startles Residents Yesterday


Yesterday morning, residents of Humboldt County–mostly though not solely in southeastern Humboldt—reported an extremely low-flying helicopter white with either blue or green stripes.

The reports placed the helicopter about 8:30 a.m. in Harris then on to Alderpoint Road and down to Lower Sawmill Road by Garberville around 9:20 a.m. Around 10:45ish, the helicopter was seen between Rio Dell and Ferndale. Then there was a single report of the helicopter in the Island Mt/ Palo Verde area around 11:15 a.m.Helicopter

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office’s public information officer said she had no knowledge of a helicopter being used by her department. The California Highway Patrol said they had none in the area. And, PG&E said they were not doing flights.

The following two photos were taken about 9:22 a.m. near Wallen Road which is just a little east of Garberville. We zoomed in so the tail number could be read. The trouble is none of the possible number combinations we tried, when checked against the FAA Registry, fit the type of aircraft we see in the photos. We thought we’d ask our readers to try their luck.

Two helicopter photos

If you want to play, take the number combo you see, such as N9988, and click the FAA link. Enter N9988 into the N-number box and submit. Check the results. N9988 is a TRIPP BG-8 which is a single seater helicopter that has been deregistered. See here for Flight Aware’s description.

UPDATE Monday: Bill Ristevski, aircraft dispatcher for PG&E, contacted me and said that this was PG&E’s flight. He assured us that “the pilots aren’t going to risk their careers” by flying inappropriately. He said he would review the flight data and get back to us.

UPDATE Monday 1:18 p.m.: Deanna Contreras explained that the flight had been unexpected. She said, “If customers have complaints about a helicopter, they are encouraged to call the customer service hotline at 1-800-pge-5000.”



  • They could be criminals looking for pot to steal. Is no one protecting our skies?

  • Is it the same helicopter that landed in Benbow a few months ago?

  • Rick Shushter owns all kinds of helicopters with video equipment. https://www.rickshuster.com/gallery

  • I heard and saw it flying in the area of my house in Garberville

  • Saw it in Bayside also. It was low but not any lower than the Coast Guard will fly sometimes.

  • Fieldbrook/Glendale somewhere between 11:30 and 1:30, it appeared to be following the high voltage lines traveling due South. It was low as the typical line inspection copter flies.

    • PG&E says it wasn’t theirs.

      • A contractor with pge, would have a contractual obligation to inspect the lines, but not necessarily an obligation to inform pge when they were doing it. A high voltage line crosses my property I see a chopper go over every year. It looks and acts just like this one, though to be honest, this one was a bit higher than they usually fly. I can usually see the pilot’s face.

  • I’d like to know the height limit on private property. When it becomes trespassing. A helicopter flying over my home is dangerous to my family, I should know why and when a deadly if fail machine is fucking around up there…..

  • I think it is actually N988B registered to Redding Air Service.
    The location would make sense as well.

  • It flew over the Vets Office super low also sometime in the morning

  • Its N988B out of Redding

  • Scared my horses, flying so low.

  • I saw this helly also in Harris, must have been 10/11 am. Was so low i thought it was in trouble. It looked old. It seemed to be following the power lines. I thought it must be p.g.e. than it went towards Paloverde…

    • I saw it in Harris also it was high and straight when I saw it, I assumed it was looking for the victims in the river as I saw the other one take the same flight path back to Redding the day before.

  • Ahhhh well not the feds. They fly black ones with blacked out windows and have been known to be super quite. Good luck east side. We are all fucked when humboldt co purchases it’s 250,000 dollar satellite imagine contract. Yes….. that includes thermal imaging too! No need for choppers

    • Best of my knowledge thermal imaging can only be used with probable cause , some case in Oregon a few years back determined that,

      • So if they see 100 “lights” in the woods with a “building “ that’s not seen in the daylight ….is that probable cause?

      • There was a case in Santa Rosa years ago that set a precedent. They have to have a warrant for thermal imaging.

        • And that case was the beginning of the end. Diesel indoor grows really blew up after that, completely protected by the results of that case. We all paid close attention to that case and were relieved when we saw the decision. Of course, we were small people with no idea what was about to happen- massive diesels spills, massive greed and baller displays of wealth by the idiot locals and how that would lead into the disaster we have now. Would I rather have a police state? Perhaps!

  • This thing flew right through my yard! It came around twice. It was very, very low.

  • A man in another county had a helicopter which he used to spot gardens for ripping off. He was also a big time grower and general sleaze bag. He was dealing with the wrong people since one evening 3 men of African heritage paid him a visit. He refused to tell them the location of his money. They then singed his scrotum with a propane torch, which as I understand it, motivated him to disclose the location of the money.


  • So we do know who it is? Or we dont know? It was all over my neck of the woods near heartwood. It flew all around and was here like 30 minutes. Honestly thought it was pge only that is usually announced. I hate like hell to worry about that being a “casing” of the neighborhood. Sheesh. That is all we need, dammit.

  • it was f&game monitoring compliance.so um there federally funded👎opps

  • It flew low over us, too! Rattled things- lots of sound wave type disturbance. Not too long before that, not sure if it was the same day or a day or so before, but I had saw what looked to me like Military aircraft…had propellers on each wing….go by and thought it was that again.
    I looked outside and it was a mostly white helicopter flying low. I live off Palmer Blvd near the freeway. I also thought it was a search vehicle.
    Can anyone help me find information on the military type plane I saw?

  • CFR › Title 14 › Chapter I › Subchapter F › Part 91 › Subpart B › Section 91.119

    14 CFR 91.119 – Minimum safe altitudes: General.

    § 91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.

    Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

    (a)Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

    (b)Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

    (c)Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

    (d)Helicopters, powered parachutes, and weight-shift-control aircraft. If the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface –

    (1) A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA; and

    (2) A powered parachute or weight-shift-control aircraft may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section.

  • I wish it was CAMP. I long for the days when over-greedy profiteering would get your scene chopped up. Here’s something I find: the only people getting worked up about helicopters these days are the people who were not here for the CAMP years. These newcomers get concerned and frightened by a single chopper… when there is no threat at all. I guess they want to feel dramatic? Nobody is coming for your weed. There is zero drama. You are trying to pretend that you matter or that you’re some kind of rebellious outlaw. You are not. The price will be going down to $200/pound this winter. The only drama left is you not paying your mortgage and losing your house.

    • If you would try a little empathy once in awhile that would allow you to hear someone’s expressed concerns, you might discover people have a multitude of reasons for not liking low flying choppers—frightened livestock, privacy, PTSD, and, yes, concerns about illegal or grey market grows.

      • Ii have lots of empathy, Kym! Not for greenrush growers though, not at all. I’ve seen the results of helicopters on horses and agree that low-flying choppers are a criminal offense to rural living. Sorry if I misinterpreted your story. Guess all I see is weed, everywhere, every day and I’m not even looking.

        • I understand some of your frustration but l am seeing over the course of your more recent comments a lack of compassion. Yesterday you expressed no empathy for people contemplating suicide either…I’m not saying there is no place for suicide but your suggestion of offering to pay a bounty “to their charity of choice or family member” if someone commits suicide has left me pretty cynical about your “lots of empathy.”

          • Dang, it would be nice to be able to read news without a demand for empathy. I’m getting emotional calluses from all the militant niceness policing going on.

            • Dang, it would be nice to read the comments on my site without feeling people are cruel and unfeeling towards those who are dragging themselves by their fingertips through despair.

              However, I figure if I can put up with people who haven’t managed to learn basic human compassion by adulthood, you can handle a little reminder about empathy.

              • Really? In what way did that response meet the required level of niceness? Seems a mighty insulting way of demanding empathy.

                But then I’ve come to the conclusion that a whole lot of what passes for empathy is just a way of being singularly nasty to people here by extending Crocodile tears for people who are not here. It’s hard to believe in the kindness of someone so mean in their posts just because they claim empathy when they display none.

                It smacks of clique violence, it does. And I expect the sycophants to chime in momentarily.

                • I wasn’t trying to be nice. But sometimes when people are rude to you, being nice isn’t an option. I was clearly letting you know you stepped over the line and that I don’t like it.

    • You need to get a life sir
      . It’s still 1500 to those who know where to sell it. Humboldt middlemen and dispensaries are a joke.

      • I call bullshit. You’re lucky if indoor gets that. Or you are quoting prices in other parts of the country. This year will be the year that breaks peoples’ backs. I have a life and I see people blowing up their grows even bigger than last year, more deps on their way and more parts of the country growing more than ever. And we are the marketplace for the lowest prices, okay right behind Grants Pass. Expect 200-300 a pound for nice outdoor come November. Thank the BOS for all this- not the messenger…Will indoor go below 1000/pound? Probably. Have fun with that! People are losing their homes this year and it’s never coming back…

        • Character drawing of Sundberg, Bohn and Fennell flying in the helicopter,checking the scene so they and their friends can line their pockets.. What a crazy comic that would be, probably true to life..

        • Oh you are the messenger huh? Where do you think 90 percenyt of the pot goes? Not here. Again. Cut out all the goddmned middle men and you get your money’s worth. You are either a salty ex grower [edit]There’s too many people that don’t know where to off their stuff so they go with middlemen these days… Not so for the old schoolers and those with connections you probably couldn’t grasp. You seem to know a lot, must be a criminal yourself. Or a middleman. Or you are just salty cuz you never got the chance to make any money.. and still don’t
          So why are you on here commenting about weed? I think you’re the farce. Or Hardin?

  • I just talked to them. They said it was a pge contract flight. She also said 500 ft Is not the law for helios just for fixed wing and there allowed to drop feet from power lines

    • Deanna Contreras, PG&E spokesperson told me on Friday that it wasn’t them. She may have made a mistake but that is what she said.

      • Redding Air Service

        Deanna Contreras does not work for PG & E Helicopter Operations. You have to call them. There are pop up emergency power outage flights all the time.

  • This is not newsworthy. There is no difference in this and someone driving by your house in a loud diesel truck. Helicopters are simply a form of transportation. Part 91.119 D specifies that a helicopter may operate less than the minimum prescribed altitude under the parameters of safe operation without creating hazard to persons or property on the surface.

    • Sarah, I am sorry you don’t agree with me that unidentified helicopters flying low over people’s property is newsworthy. However, the law you cite also states, “provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA.” I was part of the testimony given in the late ’90’s that discussed the issues of helicopters in this area. As a teacher, I spoke to the issue of noise and disturbance in the classroom especially when they landed on our school field. We were assured then that helicopters could not just fly willy-nilly below 500 feet.They needed to have a reason–such as PG&E flying their lines to inspect for issues, etc.

      If I see what appears to be a helicopter breaking the rules and disturbing rural homesteads’ privacy and their livestock, I plan to keep speaking out.

      • After watching this ” news” site for years I have to agree with Sarah. Wait I take that back it is newsworthy to illegal growers.

        • If you think you need to put “news” in quotes when speaking about what is posted on my site, as if we don’t provide accurate information, then perhaps you are in the wrong place?

          I don’t waste my time on sites that I feel I have to qualify that their site provides “news” in quotes. I only look at sites like MSN and Breitbart when I can’t get info from anywhere else and then I take those sites with a grain of salt.

          That said, many of my readers are illegal growers and I provide factual news to them as well as other people in the area. I also provide news to ranchers with livestock, rural homeowners who presume when they are on their land they can walk around naked, and veterans of wars who are shook up by helicopters. In addition, I provide news for California legal growers who are trying to negotiate the world we live in where growing is legal according to state laws but not federal laws.

          Now, if you aren’t interested in helicopter news, that’s understandable, not everyone is. I’m not interested in Sports much. But when I come upon a sports article, I don’t insist it isn’t news, I just scroll by and look for something that matters to my life. Maybe that will work for you

          • The Hermit of Grizzly Mountain

            Hear here!

            • Yep there is no news here that is reported that is not factual, CNN for that matter is point on day after day. God forbid if I agree with other comments. Oh well have a lovely day Kym and remember your the one that exposes here self to the Internet.👍

      • tracking stuff like oddly lowflying aircraft and helicopters is still inportant. what if they are in distress and end up crashing. the path that they traveled can atleast be identified and bodies recovered for loved ones. that is if there are not survivors.

        its also important if they are breaking altitude rules and becoming a risk to live stock, and homes and people.

        i have watched alot of helicopters and small planes get their altitude wrong and just about eat it into the trees in the valley that i live in. not to mention the wind currents causing them to drop lower than they like. so keeping an eye out for idiot that do that over and over putting people at risk realy matters to me.

    • Sarah, 75 comments so far suggests the community of people here find it newsworthy.

    • It is absolutely newsworthy, especially considering the home invasion opportunities low-flying helicopters can reveal. Pot isn’t the only thing of value in our cabins, for sure.

  • That 500-foot level was imposed by a judge and expired years ago.There is no limit on how low they can fly just not right over your house

  • Its N9888 not N9988 ur welcome

  • They flew over the Gville library yesterday, lazy and low. Went on up the hill and gone. The whap-whap was loud and intrusive but its proximity was the most startling. Thanks for following up Kym.

  • Two Salmon flew over us earlier today, heading south. Loud as f.

  • Redding Air Service

    Hi, I represent Redding Air Service who was operating that helicopter on Friday 13th. You are correct it was N988B. We were performing a power line patrol with PG & E work order number 18-00191. I assume no-one called PG & E helicopter operations on Friday to verify. I have attached a picture of our tracker which shows exactly where the helicopter flew. Each dot represents one minute.

    We always try to fly as neighborly as possible, however there are times when we need to get close to property in order to inspect the lines. We also try to avoid livestock as best as we can.

    We as a company do not work for CAMP and in fact turn down any work related to the detection or eradication of drugs in Northern California.

    Contrary to one comment on here, we have always taken the time to discuss our operations and explain what we are doing when concerned citizens call. It is however a federal offense to threaten to shoot our helicopter out of the sky.

    If anyone would like notification of patrols in your area, you can ask PG & E Helicopter Operations to put you on their pre-call list.

    We apologize for inconvenience cased during our power line operations and rest assured we strive to minimize it at all times.

  • Well it’s my belief that some senators and congressmen wanted to see what Gavin has been peddling. Now that it’s”legal” they have no stigma attached to a quick sightseeing tour of the farms round here….ya hear? LOLLOL.

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