BEND, Ore. - Something unexpected -- a GoPro camera -- came falling from the sky onto a man's field east of Bend recently. And the video it carried showed in dizzying fashion just how it got there, falling from a plane shortly after takeoff.
Finding its owner could be a bit trickier.
Guy Walter has been living near the Bend Municipal Airport east of town for about a decade and has experienced the typical airport-related noise. On Friday, however, he found an object that was a little out of place.
At first, he couldn’t figure out how it got there -- until he watched the footage it captured.
“I put the SD card in the computer and hit play. This (clip of a plane’s wheel) is the first thing that came up. So that let us know it came off an airplane,” Walter said Tuesday.
The airport is about a mile from Walter’s house, but he said he’s never had anything like this happen before.
“It hit the ground and bounced back up in the air quite a ways, and that’s when we noticed it landed right by the goats,” he said.
Karl Baldessari, the aviation program director at Central Oregon Community College, said the camera’s original position on the nose wheel gives him some ideas as to why it was there.
“When you see something specifically positioned on a very unique part of that aircraft, It is not uncommon for engineers to use filming as a technique or as a process for determining how something is actually performing,” Baldessari said.
He said attaching a GoPro to a plane can be both legal and illegal. Certified aircraft need permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to permanently mount one, but there’s a gray area if one is temporarily affixed. Experimental aircraft don’t need to follow the same regulations, and may use cameras at the pilot’s discretion.
Baldessari said he believes the plane that lost the GoPro was an experimental aircraft. But he said, ultimately, even if you follow all the rules, it doesn’t mean you won’t be liable.
“Above all, no matter what you do, legal or not, as a pilot, you are responsible for the conduct of the aircraft and those flight operations. Therefore, you could be held liable for whatever happens as a result of those operations.”
Walter said despite the close call, he has no hard feelings and would like to return the camera to its owner.
“If they come forward, I’ll give it back to them. It’s just interesting,” he said. “It’s not something that happens every day.”
You can watch five minutes of the camera's footage in the Related Video link on this story.