Mikhail Glattes was working on a commercial in Canada. The shoot involved helicopter work in the Llewellyn Glacier. The trained Hollywood pilot on Glattes’s shoot refused to fly his helicopter the day of the shoot because he had work he needed to do. The production company said they couldn’t lose a day of production. By contract, the original trained pilot had the right not to fly, and he invoked that right. In his stead, the production company hired a local tour guide pilot, which was their right, put him in the helicopter, and sent him up to do the shot.
The use of untrained personnel during the present phase of runaway production exacerbates the risks to all. Craig Hosking, who has done film flying shoots for over twenty years says, “A new guy who has his one time chance in the Hollywood limelight may push it to try and prove himself. Non-film pilots will fixate on the shot and forget to fly the helicopter” (Winogrand 2000).
The Canadian federal aviation report said that during the first pass, the pilot came “uncomfortably close” to the ice climber, “about five feet over his head, at a high speed” (Aviation 2007). The pilot was going too fast, and he did not know any better. As a tour guide, he had no experience with work of this kind. During the second pass, “the rotor clipped it, and he went sideways, went down into a crevasse, exploded, killed the pilot, a grip, my friend, and the director/cameraman” ([Release of name pending approval of informant, interview 2006). The rescue and recovery personnel determined that “recovery would present a high risk to personnel. There was no recovery” (Transport Canada 2000).
The dissertation covers this in greater depth. The fact remains: This tragedy could have been avoided with a simple change of phrase in the contract. Did the mainstream union leadership address this? Not as far as I could tell. If you know differently, let me know.