New Hartford Pilot Explains What May Have Caused Crash That Killed Troy Gentry
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The tragic helicopter crash that took the life of Montgomery Gentry‘s Troy Gentry is not only hard to accept but hard to understand. National Guard Blackhawk helicopter pilot Kenny Palmer says “It’s very confusing, even to experienced pilots. But I image the pilot was doing everything he could to put that helicopter down safely.”
The 9-1-1 call reveals mechanical problems forced the pilot to hover, waiting for emergency crews to arrive at the New Jersey airport. But if a helicopter can hover, why can’t it land? “You can only speculated,” says Palmer. “I believe they had a high side failure, where the engine just got stuck. The rotor RPM has to remain at a specific RPM. It can’t be too fast or too slow. With a stuck open engine your rotor is going to spin out of control.”
Why wait to land? Palmer says if he put himself in the cockpit he imagines “the pilot was at a high hover waiting for emergency personnel because when he put it down he wanted them to assist. With a stuck open throttle, that particular helicopter he was flying takes all it’s got to hover at that altitude. So that’s what he choose to do to try and control that rotor RPM. He’s not worried about the throttle being open he’s worried about that rotor.”
Early reports show when emergency crews arrived, the pilot attempted an auto rotational descent. “That’s where he basically shut the engine off and it’s like a car going coasting downhill,” explains Palmer. “The air flowing through the rotor blades spins up the rotor blades and gives you enough energy to cushion your landing.”
"I’m guessing the pilot missed his mark and landed in a ditch and the helicopter didn’t make it. If the helicopter hit the runway they probably would have been just fine and that’s the sad part"
How is a mechanical problem missed before a helicopter take off? “It could have been something that just failed on short takeoff,” says Palmer. “Helicopters are wildly complex aircrafts and they are notoriously complicated to fly especially single pilots under an emergency procedure.”
Investigators are questioning whether the pilot made the right decision in hovering rather than trying to land. “It’s really difficult to say exactly what happened, exactly how the pilot reacted and why he did what he did,” says Palmer. “It’s difficult for me to say I’d do something different because I wasn’t there. I might be a little nerve-wracked too if my rotor blade was trying to blow off my helicopter.”
The helicopter crashed in a field rather than on the runway, killing the pilot on impact and Gentry a short time later. “I’m guessing the pilot missed his mark and landed in a ditch and the helicopter didn’t make it. If the helicopter hit the runway they probably would have been just fine and that’s the sad part.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to release a final report early next week.
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