LOS FRESNOS — After a preliminary interview, Federal Aviation Administration investigators said the pilot involved in a crop duster helicopter crash in Los Fresnos told them he lost engine power before the crash.
National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Eric Weiss explained how the accident may have happened.
“In completion of the path the pilot pulled, the collective and the roto RPM dropped. He then attempts to lower the collective and throttle, which leaves him insufficient altitude to recover,” Weiss said.
FAA spokesperson Lynn Lunsford said the FAA still needs to examine the engine and report to the National Transportation Safety Board.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS wanted to find out what sort of safety measures are followed before crop duster pilots take off.
It takes years of training to prepare if a landing goes sideways.
“They were spraying the field and the guy was doing the same thing, the first guy did, he was going too low,” James Guajardo said.
Guajardo said he was there when a crop duster helicopter went down in April. Now, others are voicing their concerns about these aircraft.
"I came right away because the school is right in front of where it happened. What if the kids had been there? What if the band had been there?” said Yolanda Riggins, a concerned resident.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS wanted to find out what pilots need to do before they enter the cockpit.
“The Texas Department of Agriculture certifies our equipment, and we have to do many continuing education units each year to maintain our commercial air applicators license,” said Pat Kornegay, president of Sun Valley Dusting Company.
Kornegay said all crop dusting aircraft inspections and regulations are the same for airplanes or helicopters.
He said most helicopters are used in smaller crop areas. Kornegay said aircraft are needed because of recent storms.
“We've had heavy rains in the area and crop development is happening very fast. Aircraft are preferred when time is of essence. When the ground is wet, the ground machines can't operate,” Kornegay said.
A resident we spoke to criticized the pilots, saying they fly their planes too low.
Kornegay said pilots using crop duster aircraft can fly as low as they want before they hit the crop. He said if a helicopter has engine failure, the pilot doesn’t have many options. A helicopter tends to drop straight down or spiral down. A small plane will glide to its final stop.
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