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Investigation continues into fatal plane crash near Arco airport – LocalNews8.com

“It's not only a tragic loss to the aviation community, but also to the agricultural community.”

Andrew Mickelsen

BUTTE COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI) — Two planes collided Thursday in Butte County, killing one pilot and severely injuring the other. The accident happened just before 1 pm near the Arco airport. The identities of the pilots have not yet been released.

An investigator from National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was on the scene Friday. According to an NTSB official, these investigations involve three primary areas — the pilot, the aircraft and the operating environment. Investigators look at the following factors to determine what might have caused a crash:

  • Recordings of any air traffic control communications
  • Aircraft maintenance records
  • Weather forecasts and actual weather and lighting conditions around the time of the accident
  • Pilot's license, ratings and recency of flight experience
  • 72-hour background of the pilot to determine if there were any issues that could have affected the pilot's ability to safety operate the flight
  • Witness statements
  • Electronic devices that could contain information relevant to the investigation
  • Any available surveillance video, including from doorbell cameras

The Butte County Sheriff's Office and the Federal Aviation Administration are also investigating.

The two planes involved in the crash were an Air Tractor AT-802 and an Air Tractor AT-502B. According to the Aviation Safety Network, the last fatal crash involving an 802 happened in Missouri in August of 2023. More recently, an Air Tractor 502 collided with another plane in Texas on June 14, six days before the incident in Arco. That crash also involved one pilot fatality.

Andrew Mickelsen is a local farmer and pilot. During the growing season, he coordinates for crop dusters to spray herbicides or insecticides on his fields as needed. Mickelsen says crop dusting requires sharp piloting skills because of low-altitude flying and manual use of cockpit instruments.

“You'll see them — in some of their applications — they're mere feet off the ground, following the contours of the ground to give us the very best job that they can,” he said. “And as such, it does increase a lot of the risk and the dangers associated.”

As a member of the agriculture and pilot communities, he says it is rare to hear of a fatal crop dusting accident around here. He personally knows people impacted by the loss of life in this incident. He says his thoughts and prayers are with those in mourning.

“It's not only a tragic loss to the aviation community but also to the agricultural community,” Mickelsen said. “We mourn with those that mourn today… We know this is a difficult time right now with a loss of one of our own, a loss of one of their own. So, our hearts go out to them.”

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