Woot! Yee-haw! Insert additional clichéd exclamations as necessary!

Today, my buddy John Strayer and I are ten years helicopter crash free!

The article “Handgun Helicopter Hog Hunt Hurtles to Harrowing Halt” (thank you, Evil Princess of Podcasts, Pixels and Polymer Pistols) never did get written.

I wrote this post for the blog the very night we got home from the crash, battered and bruised and soon to be boozed in celebration of still being alive.  It turned out to get the most reader responses this blog has logged since it started in 2007.


  1. Such a good New York Times article I’m posting it in a thread that has no relation to it.
    Though we are all obviously concerned about unprovoked helicopter attacks on americas trees.

    I disagree with the last line. Ask for a lawyer AFTER you’ve said everything to your benefit “there are witnesses over there. The surviving muggers ran of that way when they saw the police car and one threw something in that bin….”.
    And remember ‘if you want to use your right to silence you have to speak up! ASK for a lawyer. Till you do, they can keep questioning.

    ‘Alec Baldwin Didn’t Have to Talk to the Police. Neither Do You.

    Shortly after a prop gun Alec Baldwin was holding fired a bullet that killed a cinematographer and wounded a director on the set of the movie “Rust,” in October 2021, he told the police in New Mexico that he’d be willing to do whatever they requested, including sitting for an interview at the station.

    In an interrogation room later that afternoon, detectives began by informing Baldwin of his rights: He had the right to remain silent. Anything he said could be used against him in court. He was free to consult with an attorney; if he could not afford an attorney, one would be appointed for him. And he could stop the interrogation at any point he wished.

    “My only question is, am I being charged with something?” Baldwin asked.

    Not at all, the police said. Reading his rights, one detective told him, was “just a formality.”

    And so, without his attorney present, while the police recorded him, Baldwin talked. And talked. And talked. At that point, Baldwin knew only that the film’s director, Joel Souza, and its cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, had been injured; detectives would inform him at the end of the interrogation that Hutchins had died. Still, for about an hour, Baldwin not only answered detectives’ many questions about the shooting but also offered his own theories about the incident and suggested the next steps the police might pursue in their investigation.
    To people unfamiliar with the American criminal justice system, Baldwin’s decision sounds reasonable: Something terrible happened, and he wanted to help. But defense lawyers I talked to said Baldwin’s case should serve as a reminder that if you are involved in a serious incident, it’s best not to talk to the police unless you have an attorney present.

    Prosecutors in New Mexico announced last week that they planned to charge Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer, who is responsible for weapons on a movie set, with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’s death. They argue that Baldwin had a responsibility to check that the gun he was holding was safe. The prosecutor’s argument has shocked many in the film industry who say that it is the crew’s responsibility, not an actor’s, to ensure that weapons are safe.

    In that first police interview, Baldwin told interrogators that Gutierrez-Reed handed him the gun and assured him it was safe: “She said, ‘Do you want to check?’ — and I didn’t want to insult her, we never had a problem. I said, ‘I’m good.’”

    Prosecutors have yet to file charges, so it is not clear what evidence they would use against Baldwin or what their legal arguments will be — but given that they’ve said Baldwin violated his legal responsibility to use the gun safely, his admission that he never checked the gun may itself incriminate him.

    Also, in a second conversation with the police a week later, Baldwin said it was actually Dave Halls, the film’s first assistant director, who handed him the gun while announcing, “cold gun.” (Halls has since agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors.)

    “It presents a huge problem if he ever wants to actually testify,” Joshua Ritter, a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor in Los Angeles, said of Baldwin’s decision to talk to the police as well as the news media. “If he takes the stand to try to explain his side of things to the jury,” he will need to explain any possible contradictions in these prior statements, Ritter said.

    The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution allows Americans to refuse to answer questions from law enforcement. Yet despite the ritualistic incantation of the Miranda warning on every TV police procedural, silence is a right that people can find hard to accept. If you’re convinced of your innocence, aren’t you obligated to help the police solve the matter under investigation? Refusing to talk to the police seems like something people do only when they’ve got something to hide.

    I have only a passing interest in Baldwin’s guilt or innocence. Several years ago, though, I came upon the work of James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School in Virginia who has become a Johnny Appleseed of Fifth Amendment advocacy. A video of a lecture Duane gave a decade ago on the importance of the Fifth Amendment, “Don’t Talk to the Police,” has been viewed millions of times on YouTube, and Duane has since given his talk dozens of times around the country. The title of his book “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent” sums up the case for silence, since the presumption of innocence and the burden prosecutors bear to prove guilt even when the accused remains silent are the bedrock of American criminal law.

    Duane’s work has turned me into a zealot for the right to remain silent — and when I watched Baldwin blithely sign away his rights, I winced. (His talking to several reporters about the case would be a separate concern.)

    Of course, we have no idea how Baldwin’s words will play in his case. But his case hints at the danger that innocent people with far less money and power than Baldwin can bring upon themselves by doing what they think is the “right thing” — talking to the police.

    “The average American — even if they’re a highly sophisticated college graduate or a law school student — really doesn’t know an awful lot about the many different ways in which even innocent people can regret for the rest of their lives the biggest mistake of their lives, the decision to waive their Fifth Amendment right and agree to talk to the police,” Duane told me.

    Looking beyond the Baldwin case, Duane argues that a key danger is that in trying to defend yourself to the police, you may unwittingly admit some wrongdoing. Navigating around such dangers is made all the more difficult because courts have given the police wide leeway to lie to people being interrogated.

    “They will lie to you about what crime they are actually investigating,” Duane writes in his book, “whether they regard you as a suspect, whether they plan to prosecute you, what evidence they have against you, whether your answers may help you, whether your statements are off the record, and whether the other witnesses have agreed to talk to them — even about what those witnesses have or have not said.”

    When you talk to the police, it’s unlikely that your whole story will be relayed to the jury during a trial. Duane argues that federal and state rules of evidence make it much easier for prosecutors and the police to present damaging statements from an interrogation than for defense attorneys to present exculpatory information from the same interview. Say you vehemently deny shooting a man, explain that you’ve never owned a gun and don’t know how to shoot, and point out that you weren’t anywhere near the scene of the crime — but also admit, in passing, that, “Yeah, sure, I never liked the guy, but who did?” Even if all of that is true, Duane says, the jury might hear only the worst at trial, with an officer testifying, “He admitted to me that he never liked the guy.”

    Duane says that while prosecutors can ask an officer who interviewed a defendant anything they want about the statement, hearsay rules can greatly limit what defense attorneys can elicit from the officer on cross-examination about other portions of the same statement.

    Do these scenarios sound far-fetched? The data says otherwise. Since 1989, the Innocence Project has used DNA evidence to help exonerate 375 innocent people convicted of crimes. About 29 percent of the exonerated had been convicted in part because of false confessions. Research has found that most false confessions occur after interrogations lasting a half dozen hours or more and that virtually all involve police officers lying to suspects. Many also involve implicit promises of leniency that may give suspects the impression that talking is their only way out.

    The Fifth Amendment is no mere formality. It is among the best defenses against government overreach that Americans enjoy. We should guard it vigorously. Anytime you’re asked to talk to the police about an incident you are involved in, there are just four words you need to say: “I want a lawyer.” ‘

    • “Of course, we have no idea how Baldwin’s words will play in his case. But his case hints at the danger that innocent people with far less money and power than Baldwin can bring upon themselves by doing what they think is the ‘right thing’ — talking to the police.”

      Your observation, quoted above, seems to imply that Alec Baldwin is innocent of the charge of involuntary manslaughter which has been brought against him. A jury may make the final call, unless Baldwin accepts a plea deal, but, honestly, if one looks at New Mexico Law and the facts of the case, without emotion or political spin, one is led to the conclusion that Baldwin is guilty. Whether he will be found guilty is a different matter since, sadly, emotion and politics are likely to interfere in this case.

      Andrew Branca makes a strong case for his guilt on an involuntary manslaughter charge. See this link:


      However, all that makes your point even more valid. If it is dangerous for an innocent man to talk to the police, then it is deadly for a guilty man to do so. Baldwin would have been wise to call his attorney, immediately after the shooting, and to have said nothing to the police without his attorney being present. Giving multiple interviews to the press was also likely not helpful. Baldwin’s ego led him to the mistake of, as Mas terms it, “diarrhea of the mouth”. 🙂

      If the Prosecutions is really serious in bringing these charges against Baldwin (we don’t know; this might all be just “Bread and Circuses” for the masses), then we can expect the Prosecution team to comb through everything Baldwin said, to the police and media, and use it as ammunition against him. He should have paid attention to the Miranda warning that the police gave him!

  2. Holy Guacamole Mas. I thought a Master Blaster Man on Man pin shoot off was exciting. No comparison. I’ll bet the Rolling Rock caught hell that night!

  3. Mas,

    Apologies if you’ve written of it elsewhere. What did the FAA determine to be the cause of the engine failure?

    Happy anniversary!

  4. One of the best music videos I’ve ever seen :-). Alas, I do not know anyone in Nashville to whom I can forward it. In all seriousness, though, many are SO THANKFUL that you emerged mostly unscathed. I, for one, did not have the opportunity to take MAG 40 until after that event. Being able to learn the course material from you was a life-changing privilege for which I will always be thankful.

  5. Congratulations on your anniversary, Sir! Nothing against helicopters, but one acronym for Whirlybird is “F-BOB.” As in “Flying Bucket of Bolts.” I am wondering if we will see more of the ones with two overhead rotors of opposing rotation. Quite amazing machines, those.

  6. I never knew exactly what happened to you in the air Mas, glad you’re all right, I’d have bungee jumped into the nearest Wild Turkey barrel ASAP lol. I was also reminded of the opening scene from Diamonds Are Forever and will now be reminded of y’all every time I watch it!

  7. There’s a chat board I spend a lot of time on that seems to have a goodly number of pilots on it. The time honored tradition is that any landing you can walk (run?) away from is a good landing. Any landing where you can re-use the aircraft afterward is a GREAT landing.

    By those standards, yours was a good, if not preferred, landing.

  8. I rememberwhen news of this “E Ticket Ride” came out, and was SO glad the machine was the only real casualty.

    Sounds like a gasoline powered piston engine which seemed to have had a fuel feed issue. That type of sputtering is classic sound of an engine “leaning out”. Fuel pump or perhaps fouled filter. Or possibly water contamination in the fuel supply, but that is not very likely.

    Whatever it was, it got mighty quiet mighty fast… until the big machete started in on the tops of those trees. Ooofff!!!

  9. While the Reaper has tried to take one or two swipes at me, over the years, with his “Mowing Blade”, none have been so dramatic as riding down in a crashing helicopter.

    I am so glad that you walked away from this one, Mas. That made it, in a sense, a successful (if unscheduled) landing!

    The World has continued to benefit from your wisdom for another decade. Your voice was not cut off short.

    So, Mas, the “Glass is Half Full”. This landing was a success! 🙂

    P.S. – I expect that the long-time readers of the Blog would never have expected that the TN_MAN could be an optimist.

  10. I am so glad that you and your companions survived that helicopter crash. I personally know of two people who crashed in a helicopter over 20+ years ago and still have problems with ankles and backs.

  11. This is off topic, but I thought that I would link to this opinion piece:


    This is the mindset of the fanatic Left. The author “beats his breast” in outrage even as he seeks to dance in the blood of the latest murder victims. California has a vast array of unconstitutional gun control laws on the books. These recent murders merely illustrate their failures. Yet, the author bitterly blames the NRA and legal gun-owners because we fight against taking further steps down this path of failure.

    The author names himself as “enlightened”. The mindset of the Left is on full display. Truly, it is as the Good Book says:

    Proverbs 12:15 – ” The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”

    Perhaps I should be more understanding. Do you blame a sheep for being a sheep? A herd human takes comfort in always being the victim. They are always the victims of poverty, racism, sexism, addiction, child abuse, or some other such exterior social force. Victims never have to take individual responsibility. I suppose that herd humans are really attracted to that idea. No matter what they do, it is never really their fault. Rather, they remain the eternal victims of society.

    Being a Leftist means that you never have to say that you are sorry.

    Thus, the blame for violence always lies elsewhere. It is gun violence, or knife violence (in the UK), or gang violence or some other such thing. It is never, never, never plain old human violence.

    The idea that one can control human violence by regulating an external object is ridiculous. If you go back a thousand years, you enter a world where firearms did not exist. Was it a peaceful paradise? No, it was even more violent than today’s world. Look at the Viking Raids. Look at the campaigns of Genghis Khan. Was that peace?

    However, the setting that makes a person into a herd human is deep in the subconscious mind. Once a person is set into “Herd Human Mode”, then logic or reason cannot flip that switch and turn them back into a Liberty Human. Once the sheep DNA takes hold, it is too late to reverse it.

Comments are closed.