Pilot Error Blamed for Two Crashes That Killed Four People

Pilot Error Blamed for Two Crashes That Killed Four People

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Pilot error has been blamed for two plane crashes this year that claimed the lives of four men -- three of them from Utah.

The National Transportation Safety Board recently issued reports on a crash in Garfield County that killed two Utah men and injured another, and a crash in South Carolina that killed a Utah man and a Georgia man.

George Gautier, 49, of Hatch was flying his single-engine Aero Commander 200 D on Jan. 18 when it crashed near the 500-acre Cherokee Springs Golf and RV Resort he was developing south of Panguitch.

Gautier and Mike Hansen, 34, of Lehi were killed and their business partner, Alexander Walter, 35, of Alpine, was injured.

Walter told investigators that he believed Gautier was distracted by conversation with Hansen about the property.

The report said Gautier failed to maintain aircraft control while maneuvering.

"Inadequate airspeed, the pilot's diverted attention, and low altitude flight were factors," the NTSB investigator said.

A Piper Super Cub that crashed May 23 in South Carolina killed Ryan Bunker, 25, of Pleasant Grove and Nicholas Garrett, 23, of Dalton, Ga.

Bunker, who was about to graduate from Utah Valley State College with a bachelor's degree in aviation science, had earned the title chief pilot with Conway-based Sky Signs. He was instructing Garrett when the plane stalled and crashed shortly after releasing an advertising banner.

Witnesses told investigators the plane released the banner, made a steep pitch upward, followed by a sharp left turn at an altitude lower than the treetops, according to the NTSB.

The NTSB said the pilot's failure to maintain proper airspeed after releasing the banner caused the plane to stall. Bunker was improperly supervising Garrett, the report said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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