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Mon, Jul 16, 2012

FAA Eyes Fine For Colorado Crop Dusting Company

Pilot May Have His Certificate Suspended For 'Reckless' Flying

A pilot flying for Low Level Dusting Company of LaSalle, CO, may have his pilot privileges suspended along with a possible $11,000 fine after residents of a housing development videotaped him flying very low over their homes.

The houses are just across the street from sugar beet field in Fort Collins, CO. Last August, the owner had the field sprayed with a fungicide called Inspire XT.

The pilot of the Grumman Ag Cat biplane (similar airplane pictured in file photo) pulled at the end of the field, but that placed him at a very low altitude over the homes across the street. Residents said that the neighborhood also got sprayed with the fungicide, which is toxic to some wildlife and has been known to cause skin irritation and dizziness in people, according to a report appearing in The Coloradan newspaper.

Neighbors also complained about the pilot flying "below roof level" during the spraying, and raised concerns about what might have happened had he not been able to pull up at the edge of the field. Farmers in the area, however, say that they have been farming the land for many years, and using agricultural aircraft. One said "we didn't ask all these people to move here."

But the FAA said the pilot acted in a "reckless" manner, and is considering suspending his flying privileges for four months. It is also eyeing an $11,000 fine against Low Level Dusting. After a seven-month investigation, the agency sent a notice to the company Thursday proposing a 120-day suspension of the pilot along with the proposed fine. They accused the company of:

  • Flying over a congested area without written approval from the city of Fort Collins.
  • Conducting the flight without an FAA-approved congested area flight plan.
  • Failing to notify the public of crop dusting operations in the area.
  • Operating the crop duster over congested areas at an altitude of less than 1,000 feet.

Both the suspension and the civil penalty are pending, according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. Meanwhile, Low Level Dusting distributed flyers this week informing residents that it would be conducting spraying activities in the area. One resident, meanwhile, said the pilots should "never fly again," adding "he's going to kill somebody."

FMI: www.faa.gov

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