Verify: Russian helicopter in Palm Valley?
Author: Abby Curran
Published: 6:13 PM EST November 13, 2017
Updated: 6:16 PM EST November 13, 2017
VERIFY 0 Articles
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A viewer reached out to First Coast News asking us to verify whether a Russian helicopter was really flying low over a St. Johns County neighborhood Monday afternoon. It all stemmed from a Nextdoor Post.


We reached out to the man who made the Nextdoor post. He did not want us to use his name. We called the public Information officers at NAS Jacksonville and Mayport, Navy Fleet Forces, The Navy Intelligence Command, Jacksonville International Airport, Northeast Florida Regional Airport in St. Augustine, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, The Federal Aviation Administration, Sikorsky helicopters, and Old City Helicopter Sales.

Needless to say, no one knew anything about a supposed Russian helicopter.

The Nextdoor poster told us through LinkedIn messaging that the photo he used was a stock photo.

He also sent us a second stock photo of a black and beige helicopter saying, "this is a file photo of what the helicopter looked like- it was unmistakable ... I don't believe this one had the radar dome on the side, but I saw it from underneath and from its right side ... I have always had an interest in military aviation since I was much younger and I know Russian type aircraft. This was a transport helicopter- Mi 17 ... I assumed it was part of the airshow from the weekend- noticed they had an old Russian MiG jet at the show."

NAS Jacksonville said the only helicopter they had for the airshow was a new age UH-1 Huey army helicopter that was green and black camo and did not have a Russian helicopter.

The poster said he knows the difference and did not see a Huey.

Mayport said they didn't know anything about a supposed Russian helicopter.

So, we decided to try and ask the Navy to help us tell the difference between a Russian and American helicopter.

They sent us on a phone tag field trip, where we contacted, Fleet Forces, and the Navy Intelligence Command. Neither would provide descriptions. However, the person I spoke to at fleet forces told me to Google it. And said Russian helicopters look nothing like ours. So we did.

They all look like helicopters to me.

JIA and The Northeast Florida Regional Airport in St. Augustine said neither knew anything about helicopters taking off from their tarmac.

The FAA was next on our list. All the aircraft registered in St. Johns County were on their website. We combed through them to see who had helicopters in the area, then called businesses and sheriff's offices to see if their helicopters matched the description.

St. Johns County Sheriff's Office and Old Helicopter Sales both said no.

There is a helicopter manufacturer that has a business in Florida. It is called Sikorsky. They said they are based in West Palm Beach and are a defense contractor. They can't sell anything internationally without the approval of the U.S. government. They also said that they test their aircraft locally so they wouldn’t go any farther than Palm Beach. So, there was no way one of their aircraft was near Jacksonville.

Lastly, we did reverse google image searches on both pictures sent to us by the Nextdoor poster. The one posted on Nextdoor seems to be a picture of a Mil MI-17 helicopter. That's what the poster said might be the model, although he thought the coloring was green and tan.

The second image is more along the lines of his color description but looks to be an MI 171 with SATCOM antennae on it. It was also Russian made.

In short, we have one man's story and without any photo or video proof, it's hard to know what happened. But I will say that everyone we spoke to thought it highly unlikely that a Russian helicopter would be flying over American soil without anyone knowing.

If there is something you would like for us to verify, send us an email to verify@firstcoastnews.com.


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