By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
Grant Jacobson flew his helicopter over Steiner Ranch several times over the past several weeks. Though several people complained that he was flying too low, Jacobson said that he was not doing anything illegal.
“I did nothing illegal,” Jacobson said. “This is a $7 million dollar machine and it’s mine, and I’m not going to break it or me.”
Jacobson launched Texas Jacobson Aviation four years ago and the philanthropic company has logged over 1,100 missions, more than 600,000 miles and 2,200 passengers to help those in need.
Jacobson, who says he has flown more than 3,300 hours, also enjoys giving friends rides in his aircraft.
On one of those recent trips over the Estates of Westridge in Steiner Ranch, Jacobson was taking his doctor and friend for a ride in his helicopter so the doctor could take pictures of his roof, Jacobson said.
He was above the neighborhood maybe three or four minutes on that trip, he said. Another time he took the doctor’s wife over their house for a view from the sky.
Reports of two of the flyovers were on August 16 and 30 and during these two trips, and neighbors say at least one more trip, Jacobson got too close to their homes.
One resident who lives one house down from the doctor on Wild Canyon Loop, said that his heavy pool furniture and umbrella were likely blown into his pool from this helicopter. They were out the day that it happened, but the homeowner said when they returned home, pool furniture was in the pool and the umbrella was “broken like a storm had come through the neighborhood,” said Gary Parmelee. But nothing else was affected like would happen with a storm, he said.
The date and time frame of that incident matched with one of the dates Jacobson was flying over.
Other neighbors reported that yard debris and mulch was blown everywhere and the Youngs said it seemed like the helicopter was going to land on their street. Another parent was afraid that police were looking for someone while her daughter was home alone.
Several in the community said they filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Jacobson admitted to flying low but says he did not fly as low as people in the Estates of Westridge neighborhood were estimating — around 100 feet.
“I was maybe 300 feet off the ground,” he said.
Federal rules governing aircraft state that there are minimum altitudes for aircraft, but helicopters are exempt from those rules. “Helicopters may be operated at less than minimum altitudes if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface,” according to the Federal Aviation Administration FAR rule section 91.119.
Jacobson says that he is staying safe when he flies his twin engine, Bell helicopter model 429 that he added to his fleet in March.
“Worse case scenario is that one engine stops, but then you keep flying,” he said. “I am professional and good at what I do.”
Jacobson acknowledges that the noise a helicopter can make can be disturbing. “I get that,” he said.
Jacobson says he is not going to fly over the Estates of Westridge again and that he felt bad about disturbing this neighborhood. “It is not my goal to make someone unhappy or scared… I don’t want to annoy them or frighten them.”
Jacobson actually spends most of his time helping people and making them happy.
“I was raised you give back. So many people are in need,” said Jacobson, who grew up in Hawaii and whose his dad was a pilot.
Four years ago, Jacobson wanted to take his passion for flying and combine it with his desire to do something philanthropic for others. He created Texas Jacobson Aviation to team up with organizations to provide free air transportation to those in need.
More than 2,200 wounded military and cancer patients alike have taken a ride on TJA’s wings. Nearly $40 million dollars have been allocated thus far to the TJA cause. Lives have been touched through flying missions including those with Grace Flight, Veterans Airlift Command, Mercy Medical Airlift, Angel Flight, Operation Comfort, Wounded Warriors, Patriot Outdoors Adventures, the San Antonio Military Medical Center, and others.
“I do anything I can do to help people,” he said.