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NTSB: Pilot At Fault For 2006 NM Crop Duster Accident

Report Says Low Speed, Inadvertent Stall Were Contributing Factors

The National Transportation Safety Board issued its probable cause report Wednesday indicating pilot error was to blame in a fatal agricultural aircraft accident near Deming, NM in November of 2006.

Pilot John Obe Burrell, 65, of Winnie, TX was killed when his 1992 Air Tractor AT-502A went down in clear weather about 10 miles northwest of the Deming Municipal Airport during a dry chemical application to a rancher's field, according to the Associated Press.

The NTSB probable cause report attributed the accident to, "The pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control while maneuvering resulting in an inadvertent stall and impact with terrain. A contributing factor was the low airspeed."

Investigators said the examination revealed no problems with the airplane or its engine.

Burrell had started a dry chemical application near the top of a ridge and flew down field on his first pass, according to the report. The pilot and rancher discussed the terrain and application flight paths via hand-held radios and a subsequent upslope application was also completed successfully.

The rancher said he then saw the airplane climb about 500 feet over a gap between two 6,300-foot ridges and turn back to the field when Burrell said he was "in a bind and was going to crash."

The rancher then saw the airplane "pitch over abruptly and enter a tight spin." The airplane made three turns before impact, according to the report.

Burrell had 27,000 hours of flight time with 5,000 in type.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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