Hours before the arrival of Super Typhoon Hagibis last Monday morning, pictures of a red helicopter parked in front of XO Market on Middle Road circulated on social media, prompting speculations of a possible emergency landing and even some lighthearted comments about “what panic buying has come to.”
It also fanned much talk because it is not every day that you see a helicopter parked among cars on Middle Road.
No, the chopper wasn’t there for last-minute shopping in anticipation of the Category 5 howler.
It turns out the helicopter is a private aircraft charter operated by Saipan Helicopters, which is owned by Vertical Aviation Saipan, which also owns XO Market.
The helicopter is a low- flying aircraft that serves as a tourist attraction where they provide passengers a bird’s eye view tour of the whole island of Saipan from sunup and before sundown.
Saipan Helicopters is a popular ride among tourist-group of friends and family and among couples, who look at it as an ideal way to make a proposal or get engaged while touring the island aboard the aircraft.
Saipan Tribune reached out to aircraft owner Sophie Xu and was told that the community need not worry as there was no emergency landing or people that got hurt. “The helicopter landed in front of XO Market so that it can be put in the warehouse (next to the supermarket) to avoid any damage that the bad weather may bring,” she said.
The Department of Public Safety is investigating the incident in communication with the Commonwealth Ports Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration to see if this was a documented and approved flight path.
Super Typhoon Hagibis started as a tropical depression that turned into a super typhoon in just 18 hours, with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph and gusts of up to 180 mph.