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FAA Clears Pilot Who Helped Flood Victims

FAA Clears Pilot Who Helped Flood Victims

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Federal Aviation Administration has cleared a helicopter pilot who flew several missions over St. George to help flood victims.

Jeremy Johnson, 29, made headlines in January after he saved a family stranded by the overflowing Santa Clara River. He also flew numerous rescue and supply missions as part of the relief effort, then raised $20,000 by giving chopper rides to help Rolf and Renae Ludwig's family get back on their feet.

The FAA said Johnson failed to give a required seven days' notice before offering the fund-raising rides. Johnson also allegedly violated federal regulations when he carried explosives and an explosives expert across the river -- at the request of local rescue coordinators -- to help break up a river blockage.

Johnson said he feared losing his private helicopter pilot's license or facing hefty fines. Instead, the matter is now considered resolved after Johnson took a piloting refresher course and passed a commercial piloting test.

FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said Friday Johnson was also given a "letter of admonishment" by the FAA's hazardous materials division, advising him to become more familiar with the FAA's regulations and to "know that you are not allowed to be carrying hazardous materials unless you have approval from the FAA."

"His background did not show any hot-dogging or any kind of negative history," Fergus said. "There were no sanctions, as such, in this case due to the guy's track record and his intent."

Johnson said he has been told by the FAA the entire incident will be erased from his flying record if he stays out of trouble with the agency for the next two years.

"I feel good about the whole situation. I felt like they were really good with me," he said. "I think I would do things a little differently if I did it again. I would try to do it right and work with the FAA."

Johnson said FAA representatives in Salt Lake City showed him a file folder full of letters from the public supporting him.

"A lot of people came to my defense and helped me, and I'm sure that helped," he said. "People were calling me on the phone, people I didn't know, asking if there was anything they could do to help. "

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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