Colorful characters

April 7, 2009 by Tim McAdams


It seems that almost all industries and groups have their share of larger than life personalities. For some, the publicity is good and for others it does not bode so well. Aviation has its share of colorful characters and the helicopter industry seems to attract them.


You might remember back in early February a helicopter pilot named David Martz whose antics and famous passenger got him in the news. On board his helicopter that day was rock star Tommy Lee. An LAPD helicopter pilot/officer reported that Martz flew too close to his aircraft, was flying erratically, and disobeyed orders from the air traffic control tower.


The LAPD pilot told Martz to land at Van Nays airport. When local officers arrived, the helicopter was shut down and Martz and Lee were gone. A search of the area found Martz at a local hotel bar drinking. He told the officers he started drinking as soon as he landed. A breathalyzer test was inconclusive as to whether Martz was under the influence while flying. Lee was later tracked down, questioned, and released.


This incident put a public spotlight on Martz’s past. In 2006, he landed a helicopter on a Hollywood Hills public street, in front of Lee’s house, and took Lee and a guest to a rock concert. He was charged with reckless flying.


In 2007, he was photographed grabbing a topless woman while flying a helicopter. The FAA received an e-mail and photographs describing the incident. However, they decided not to pursue it because there was no formal complaint filed and there was no proof he was flying when the photos were taken.


Recently, a video surfaced of Martz and a porn star flying over San Diego. A statement from the FAA says the tape shows Martz participating in lewd behavior while flying his helicopter. The agency issued an emergency revocation of his pilot certificate.


I have heard many different opinions on this pilot. Some said he was just enjoying the freedom of aviation and does not deserve to be harassed by the FAA. Others said he is reckless, gives the industry a bad image, and is an out of control risk taker. I am personally someone who believes the government should interfere in our lives as little as possible. However, there are times when public safety requires some form of intervention.


In this case, landing on a public street without authorization or adequate safety controls endangers the public. Flying over a populated area with such distractions can present unnecessary and unwarranted risk to persons on the ground. I understand that this is not the first or only time this type of activity has happened in an aircraft, but putting a video on the Internet really shows bad judgment.


  • Alex Kovnat

    From what you write above, that guy is a tragedy waiting to happen. Its not only so much he will eventually kill himself. We should be concerned about innocent people who might be in the wrong place at the wrong time when he finally loses control of a helicopter, and crashes into a car, a home, a school, or shopping mall.

  • Avi Weiss


    I concur with your thoughts, and though the person above was indeed flying helicopters, and I too have seen more than a few questionable characters operate helicopters in my time, I’m finding it difficult to abstract any direct value from covering his poor behavior as a pilot in a blog dedicated to “helicopter specifics”. Maybe its just me.

    I don’t think you’ll get any arguments on your thoughts and observations from even the most staunch “laissez-faire” pilot, as he does seem to have poor impulse control and decision making, but might be best to leave these kinds of discussions for the “airmanship” blogs, and use the precious little space we get for rotor-related discussion of rotorcraft particulars.

    Now … how about a nice discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of a fully-articulated rotor system? :-)


  • Tim McAdams


    Thanks for the feedback. I am trying to touch on a variety of helicopter issues and topics to keep things interesting.

    I consider feedback like yours very valuable because as I learn what topics people like to read the most, I will focus on those areas. Your rotor system suggestion is a good one and I have added it to my list of future topics.


  • Avi Weiss


    Understand completely.

    One of the challenges in this medium, especially for “new entries” is to find the “sweet spot” of content that will resonate with the largest audience. Through very basic empirical observation, I have found most helicopter “enthusiasts” who take the time to actually read up on helicopter related items appear most interested in specific technical discussions, as opposed “general thoughts” (I guess myself included).

    Obviously “Hover Power” will want to cover the full spectrum of helicopter concerns, so finding the balance point will be an ongoing effort. But don’t worry, us readers are here to help ;-).


    PS. Given the dearth (ok, complete absence) of rotorcraft knowledge material in the new FAA Wings program, I have taken on the challenge of producing some course elements, and when completed, would love to forward to you for your review and thoughts. Please let me know if that is alright.

  • David Martz

    Hi Tim

    First of all you need to get the facts staright. You can not rely on media to get the facts. Based on what you wrote I would expect the responses you and other blogs have received. Why not just interview me.

    I have never landed at Tommy Lee’s house, and WAS NOT charged with reckless flying. In fact after the FAA investigated they found nothing wrong and sent me a letter closing the case.

    I was never ordered out of the sky by the LAPD (how do you do that anyway) There was no eratic flying, I would never disobey instructions from a tower (unless there was an emergency which warranted it) and we never went to a bar and started drinking.

    While being pleasured by a female I was in complete control and could have handled any emergency. It has, and always will be safety first for me. And by the way the act of pleasure occurred in May of 2005. Almost 4 years ago. I cherish life more than anyone and would never put myself or others in harms way.

    All of the pilots out there who have been pleaseured while flying should be thinking what the heck is the FAA going to impose nex?. A new FAR which will not allow us to drink coffee in the cockpit for fear we may spill it in our lap?

    It would be nice to have fellow pilots who know the facts and know my flying capabilities to help me get my license back. This has turned into a National Circus. To have one’s license revoked because he received oral sex while flying is unbelievable. Watch the video, what part of the flight was careless and reckless. You fellow helicopter pilots know that in the event of an engine failure the first thing we do is lower the collective.

    David Martz

  • Lisa

    Yes, Helicopters are fun and open the doors to many opportunities. It is too bad there are people who are so envious and spiteful that they have to distort the truth to add un needed drama.


  • Alex Kovnat

    Avi writes:

    >Now … how about a nice discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of a fully-articulated rotor system?


    From what I understand, if your particular needs can be met by a main rotor with two blades instead of three or more, than the “teeter totter” configuration may well meet your needs. That configuration was criticized at one time because of the problem of mast bumping. Still, the teeter totter configuration offers the advantage of simplicity, i.e. no need for flapping or lead-lag hinges.

    But If your needs require a main rotor with three or more blades, what is the norm today on civilian helicopters other than full articulation, i.e. pitch hinge, flapping hinge and lead-lag hinge for each blade?

    I remember years ago an assault helicopter developed by Lockheed, the Cheyenne, had a rigid rotor system. But that machine was never put into production. Should it have been, and was its rotor system something a civilian helicopter pilot might like to have? Now, that would be an interesting discussion!

    Of course I suppose some pilots will then get into trouble flying a helicopter so equipped, through a loop while a girl is doing stuff with him :)

  • Capt. Denis Murphy

    Enought of this!!!!!!!! The government is putting too much on this helicopter pilot. This sounds and smells like the thing that happened to Bob Hoover. I believe too much government control is getting out of hand!!!!!!! He is PIC of the helicopter, is his butt setting on the machine , so if something happens , he will be responsible for that. He has insurance!!!!!

  • chopper dan

    Not that I am a member but it seams to me that the mile high club has been around for years. They even sell pins I’m told. I’m not an avocate of harrasing neighbors and landing on public streets without permission though but I have heard of way too many airplane pilots that have partaken in such activities while only the auto pilot was flying the plane. At least this guy was at the controls or was she?? LOL

  • Doug

    Rule Number 1 – The media is ALWAYS wrong!
    Rule Number 2 – If you decide to get some action, while in action, TURN OFF THE CAMERA!

  • Airwolf2000

    Thanks for a place for helo people within AOPA.If you want to see an accident waiting to happen watch Rand R aviation on Axe Men/ History Channel on television.If all the things they portray are “real” it wont be long before they have an accident.Its a shame because it puts good safe helo pilots in a bad light.

  • B Neville

    You will be interested to learn that we will soon (probably this month) have at least four additional online courses on, and they are all helicopter courses!

  • B Neville

    And provided by Avi! Thank you, kind sir.

  • outlaw63446

    How about a nice “FAA horror story blog”? There certainly is enough material out there. My neighbors objected to having to listen to me landing my float equipped helicopter on the lake (internaltional waterway). So they filed a complaint with the FAA, who were only too happy to charge me with reckless operation. The “investigation” was based on two photos supplied by the neighbors – one supposedly showing me near a swimming area, with the rotors stopped and turbine not runnng, and another with me taxiing on tha water 300 feet from shore. They simply sent me a letter and told me that my license was suspended for 6 months. The guys that flew through the Washington, D.C. prohibited airspace in the Cessna lost their licenses for 90 days. FAA justice. Anyway, I coperated in the process, and was told that the suspension would be upheld. At that point, I decided that having to listen to, or see a helicopter was not reckless, and told them that I was ready for my hearing. They dropped the case. NEVER trust an FAA guy. Keep your guard up.