Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Rotary Wing RW-1, N166LC, Fatal accident occurred September 12, 2018 at Billings Logan International Airport (KBIL), Yellowstone County, Montana

Robert “Larry” Coons

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Helena, Montana

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Billings, MT
Accident Number: WPR18FA260
Date & Time: 09/12/2018, 1240 MDT
Registration: N166LC
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On September 12, 2018, about 1240 mountain daylight time, a Robert L. Coons RW 1 experimental amateur-built helicopter, N166LC, was substantially damaged after colliding with a hangar while maneuvering at Billings Logan International Airport (BIL), Billings, Montana. The pilot, who was the registered owner of the helicopter, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was being operated in accordance with Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and no flight plan was filed. The local flight departed at an unknown time.

According to BIL Airport Operations personnel, the pilot frequently hover-taxied the helicopter in an area around the accident site where the aircraft was hangared. While there were no reported witnesses to the accident, an individual who rents a hangar in close proximity to the accident site heard the impact, responded to the site and reported it to local authorities. The helicopter impacted the top section of a hangar with its main rotor blades while hover-taxiing, after which it came to rest with its tailboom laying on the ground. The remainder of the helicopter came to rest on its left side, oriented upward on about a 30-degree angle against the front of the hangar on a southwesterly heading.

The helicopter was recovered to a secured hangar for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: ROBERT L COONS
Registration: N166LC
Model/Series: RW 1
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: Robert L Coons
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: BIL, 3662 ft msl
Observation Time: 1246 MDT
Distance from Accident Site: 1 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 21°C / 6°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Unknown
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 80°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 12000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.78 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Billings, MT (BIL)
Destination: Billings, MT (BIL)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  45.000000, -108.000000

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Robert Larry "Larry" Coons
Date of Birth: Friday, December 24th, 1943
Date of Death: Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

Service Information

Friday, September 28th, 2018 2:00pm
Smith Downtown Chapel
925 South 27th Street
Billings, MT

Robert “Larry” Coons, age 74, passed away on September 12, 2018 while doing what he loved most, flying. He was born on December 24, 1943 to Robert “Bob” Coons and Elsie Coons in Bismarck, ND. He had two brothers, Chester “Skip” Coons, Ron Coons, and one sister, Kathy Martineson. Larry graduated from Bismarck High School in 1961 and then enlisted in the Navy on June 14, 1961 joining his brother, Skip, until his honorable discharge on October 12, 1964.

Larry married LaVerne Coons (Opp) on January 21, 1967 in Bismarck, ND. They had two daughters, Capri and Tawny. Soon after being married Larry and LaVerne moved to Washington, DC for several years where Larry worked for IBM before they returned to ND. They lived in Minot before moving to Bismarck. Larry and his family made their life running Taylor Rental in Bismarck then opening and running the Washburn Boat Shop in Washburn, ND until moving to Billings, MT in July of 1991. In Billings, Larry became a private pilot for Fenske Printing, flew for Corporate Air, and piloted the Billings Gazette hot air balloon. Larry then began working for Netjets as a captain of private corporate jets for the next 15 years. After LaVerne passed away in January 2006, Larry’s longtime neighbor Lana Ready became his constant companion. He spent his retirement years building his Rotorway (RW-1) helicopter and was midway through building a Glastar kit plane when he passed away.

Larry’s Navy career started with being stationed at Whidbey Island as an aircrewman on a P-2V Neptune. He was part of an ASW (anti-submarine warfare) squadron that patrolled the Pacific Rim from Alaska to California. Larry’s love of flying started when he was in the Navy and continued through the rest of his life.

Larry was always creating lasting memories with families and friends including spending weekends at Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota on his houseboat, Float-a-Loan, where he spent a lot of his time working in the bilge, acting as captain “Uncle Bunky” around the lake, and orchestrating multiple shenanigans with family and friends. He also involved others in adventures of a powered ultralight aircraft, building a helicopter in his garage in Washburn, and being a fossil and large rock retriever for his wife and sister-in-law. He made many hunting memories with the ND crew and family around Theodore Roosevelt national park near Medora, ND and loved raising and training his golden retrievers to hunt with him. When Larry moved to Montana he began his path of becoming a pilot captain for work and for a main hobby. He owned several small airplanes over the years and built his second helicopter and first experimental airplane in his retirement years. He enjoyed socializing and “talking shop” with fellow pilots from around Billings and at the airport hangars. Larry had a tender side and put in his best effort being a caregiver for his wife when she was sick and later caring for his companion next door. He also loved making his granddaughters laugh and teased them often with his goofy sense of humor.

Larry brought joy and laughter to every family and friend gathering and always had a smile on his face. He was very young at heart, smart, talented in building his aircraft, and always had a mission to make sure others were enjoying themselves. There are too many funny, wild, and crazy adventures that can be told by friends and family about Larry to share here so please honor and celebrate his life by sharing your fond memories with his family and friends or on his condolences page.

Larry is preceded in death by his parents, Bob and Elsie Coons, his brother Chester “Skip” Coons, sister Kathy (Larry) Martineson, and his wife LaVerne Coons. He is survived by his daughter Capri (Walt) Musselman and granddaughter Carla, daughter Tawny (Judd) Stark and granddaughter Kate, brother Ron (Shirley) Coons, companion Lana Ready, multiple brothers and sisters-in-law, and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews that he cared for very much. Larry will be greatly missed by his family and friends.

BILLINGS, MONT. --  Yellowstone County officials have released the name of a 74-year-old man who died in the crash of an experimental helicopter at Billings Logan International Airport.

Deputy Coroner Rich Hoffman says Robert "Larry" Coons of Billings died Wednesday afternoon of blunt force trauma when his helicopter crashed into a hangar.

Hoffman says it is not believed Coons suffered any medical emergency before the crash.

Airport officials have said nobody witnessed the crash, which was reported at about 12:45 p.m. The pilot wasn't in contact with air traffic control at the time.

The pilot of an experimental helicopter died Wednesday after he crashed into a hangar facility at Billings Logan International Airport, said airport director Kevin Ploehn.

The 74-year-old Billings-area man was the only person in the helicopter when the crash was reported at about 12:43 p.m., said Billings Police Department Lt. Brandon Wooley.

The aircraft was an "experimental RW-1 helicopter," said Allen Kenitzer, a communications official with the Federal Aviation Administration's Northwest Mountain Region.

"Details are still being sorted out as there were no witnesses to the incident," Ploehn wrote in a press release issued Wednesday afternoon.

"Someone that was up in their hangar heard it, eventually went around the corner and saw it," Ploehn added in an interview. The pilot was not in communication with air traffic control at the time, he said.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

The aircraft crashed into a private hangar, Wooley said. Police would not speculate as to the cause of the crash, and no one else was injured in the incident, he said.

The hangar was unoccupied at the time of the crash and airport officials are unsure whether the hangar belonged to the pilot, Ploehn said.

No other flight traffic was disrupted as a result of the crash, he said, but the area around the hangar will be closed until FAA and NTSB officials arrive Thursday to begin their investigation. The runway and taxi field are not expected to have any closures, Ploehn added.

Original article can be found here ➤

BILLINGS – A 74-year-old male pilot of an experimental gyrocopter died Wednesday afternoon after crashing into a hangar at Billings Logan International Airport.

The call came at 12:43 p.m. when a bystander heard the crash on the far west end of Billings Logan International Airport, Billings Police Lt. Brandon Wooley said.

According to Kevin Ploehn, Director of Aviation and Transit for Billings Logan International Airport, the pilot of the gyrocopter had not been in contact with the tower, and air traffic controllers were unaware of the accident until the 911 call.

Authorities are uncertain if the pilot died in the crash or had health problems prior. No one else was in the helicopter when it crashed.

A gyrocopter is similar to a helicopter, but the main rotor and tail rotor operate separately, with the tail rotor providing forward propulsion and the main rotor providing the vertical lift.

Gyrocopters tend to be recreational vehicles and they fly lower and slower than helicopters.

The Yellowstone County coroner was on the scene. Billings police, Billings firefighters and airport police also responded.

Wooley said Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials will conduct an investigation.

The inspectors are expected to arrive in Billings tomorrow. But results of the investigation will likely come much further down the road, as these investigations often take months to resolve, said Ploehn.

Original article can be found here ➤


  1. It’s unfortunate that Larry Coons was killed as all the accident does is put a spotlight on an aircraft like the Rotorway which is an incredible machine. Larry Coons had no training or valid medical and had no business performing any sort of Helicopter flight. Unfortunately Larry Coons will not be able to face the FAA or the two people he nearly got killed in 2017 when Larry along with Tyler Thompson of Billings Montana falsified aircraft maintenance logs.

  2. - Larry was my instructor pilot in Minot, North Dakota in 1972 when he worked for Victor Gelking. I had the pleasure of knowing his wife Laverne and his parents in Park Rapids, MN. Larry loved to fly in his old Cessna 310 and had a knack for teaching student pilots. I would have to believe that something unexpected occurred from which he could not recover. Larry and I also shared the love of retrievers. His dog at the time was Rusty and went most places with Larry. Fly High.