On October 1, 2021, a helicopter and a small plane were reported to have collided at about 7:30 a.m. at the Chandler Municipal Airport. A local witness, Matthew Trent, described the collision, stating, “The helicopter appeared to be in the flight path of the incoming plane, and landing gear clipped the rotor of the helicopter.” After the collision, the plane managed to land safely, but the helicopter crashed and exploded instantly. The two people in the helicopter were reported dead at the scene, but it is undecided if the two died in the crash or in the fire following the crash.
The two people have since been identified as 34-year-old Michael Papendick and 27-year-old Jessica Brandal. Both of these individuals were part of the Dodge City Community College’s DC3 Flight Instructor Program, Brandal being an instructor and Papendick was a student studying to be a pilot. Specifically, Papendick wanted to become an EMS pilot and only had 30 hours in, but his wife, Rebecca Papendick, was worried something awful was going to happen to him. Papendick, a Navy veteran, had only begun his pilot training a few weeks before the crash and was the main provider for his family, consisting of his wife and 11-month-old daughter. Rebecca Papendick’s sister, Rachel Lima, has since responded to the incident, stating, “You never think something like this happens to you, you know. This is something that happens to other people, not you, so when you’re faced with that reality for a moment, you know your first reaction is to kind of to deny it, and that’s what we did, really, so it was tough when we when we did find out that our suspicions were confirmed.” Those close to Papendick remember him for his humor and the joy he brought them. Lima, in remembering her brother-in-law, continues, “Just the most precious person. I’m so grateful to have known him for the short period of time that I did, because you don’t meet very many people like him. He was one of a kind and he is a wonderful, wonderful man, and he gave everything he had to everybody.”
Residents in the area were not surprised by the news of the crash, as air traffic in the area is reported to have dramatically increased from past years, with small planes and helicopters constantly fighting for airspace. Lynn Becker, a local resident for 30 years, reported, “You know that something is going to happen, because there’s so many small planes are coming from that way and trying to land.”
The Federal Aviation Administration identified the plane as being a Piper PA-28 and the helicopter as being a Robinson R22. The two schools operating these aircrafts were Flight Operations Academy and Quantum Helicopters. The plane took some damage to the landing gear, and both the flight instructor and student onboard received no injuries, and the Chandler Police Officials will not be releasing their identities. The incident is still under investigation by the Chandler Police at this time.