This time, they would eat lunch in Paola.
Just as they had done twice a week for the past year, James and Miya Dohrman and their friend Don Eikel climbed into their similar home-built helicopters - Dohrman's yellow and Eikel's blue - and flew Wednesday from the New Century Airport near Olathe for lunch in a nearby town.
The helicopters, Eikel said Thursday, brought them together.
"He found out about me because he wanted one of them," Eikel said about James Dohrman's interest in his Rotorcraft kit helicopter, model EXEC 162F.
So Wednesday, they flew 26 miles to Paola, ate lunch in the airport, then turned around to head back. Hovering above Hillsdale Lake, Eikel split off for New Century Airport near his home in Lenexa, while the Dohrmans flew back to Lawrence Municipal Airport, where James Dohrman keeps the helicopter.
The Dohrmans' aircraft didn't make it back.
The EXEC 162F crashed Wednesday in a creek bed east of Baldwin City. It was at least the 66th time that model of experimental helicopter has crashed in the past 10 years, according to federal data.
James Dohrman, 45, broke his leg in the crash and was taken to Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan. Miya Dohrman wasn't seriously injured. The Dohrmans live in De Soto.
Even though the two-person helicopters are built at home, often by relative amateurs, it doesn't necessarily make them any more or less safe than any other aircraft, aviation authorities and enthusiasts said.
"It's still a very safe aircraft," said Elizabeth Cory, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration. "We've seen it go through its paces before it's allowed to fly."
Amateur-built aircraft have to go through licensing and inspection, Cory said. Both maintenance and compliance are tailored to the aircraft and monitored by the FAA, she said.
Pilots also have to be licensed, which requires 40 hours of in-flight training, including 10 hours of solo flying.
FAA inspectors scoured the field where Dohrman's helicopter crashed Wednesday and gathered documents to help determine why the two-seat helicopter went down.
After their investigation is compete, FAA inspectors will turn their findings over to Aaron Sauer, an inspector in the Denver office of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Sauer has worked for the board for seven years, and has worked two previous wrecks involving the experimental helicopters.
About 1,000 of the build-it-yourself helicopters have been sold worldwide, according to the Rotorcraft International Inc. Web site. Sauer said figuring out whether one aircraft crashes more than another is a complicated endeavor.
"It's a numbers game," Sauer said.
Even comparing the crash of one helicopter with another is complicated, because investigators have to account for the number of hours it had been in the air, maintenance and a host of other factors.
At least some of the accidents involving the $67,000 EXEC 162F helicopters involved some kind of error on the part of the builder, federal records show.
For example, a crash in 2004 near Cameron Park, Calif., happened after the helicopter's owner and builder didn't tighten a bolt on the main rotor blade, records show. The owner died in the crash.
"With the bolt loose, the (blade) was free to diverge from its normal rotation plane, thus rendering the helicopter uncontrollable," the NTSB report said.
Records show most helicopter accidents are the result of pilot error and mechanical issues, among other difficulties.
Eikel said the helicopters are stronger than most other types of home-built aircraft, such as some fixed-wing, single-engine airplanes.
"It's not a flimsy piece of aircraft," Eikel said. "It's pretty substantial."