KATC tower crash: Pilot was troubled, erratic and tower lights were working

In Featured News by Wireless Estimator


Although the seasoned pilot’s FAA sectional chart identified that there was an 1,800-foot tower in his flight path, he crashed into it at about the 1,600-foot level in daylight. The day before the crash he was informed that there was a warrant out for his arrest.

Scripps Broadcasting agreed to pay a $1.13 million fine to the FCC earlier this month for lighting violations on multiple tower structures.

The settlement order adopted by the FCC started after an agency investigation began after a small plane crashed into KATC’s TV tower near Kaplan, Louisiana on August 31, 2018.

Although the FCC Enforcement Bureau said that it found no evidence to connect the collision to any violation of its rules on the tower, it did say that it found “numerous, sometimes longstanding, irregularities” in compliance and looked at other Cordillera towers that were acquired by Scripps.

At that same time that the FCC was getting ready to send out its press release, the National Transportation Safety Board was buttoning up it’s final report on the crash that was released on January 10, 2020.

It presented a sad picture of a troubled 45-year-old pilot from Seabrook, Texas who died along with his six-year-old daughter.

According to the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s department:

  • The pilot and his second wife were in the process of getting a divorce following several family-related challenges.
  • The pilot’s wife had been very concerned when the pilot left with their daughter without notice and until the evening prior to the accident, she had not seen or spoke with her daughter since July 27, 2018, 35 days prior to her death.
  • On the day prior to the accident, the pilot was informed by his attorney that a warrant had been issued for his arrest.
  • A witness who lived near the tower stated the lights were often erratic.
  • An aerial application pilot who frequently flew near the tower stated the intensity of the tower’s lights ranged from very bright to dim. This pilot flew during the morning of the accident and recalled the tower’s lights as bright.

The NTSB inspector also found that the pilot’s behavior became erratic in the days before the accident and he was unresponsive to phone calls and made unauthorized purchases with his work credit card while in Florida

The report stated that on August 31, 2018, about 7:56 a.m. the pilot was flying his Piper PA-28R airplane, N7430J, when it impacted the tower.

The airplane departed without a flight plan from Abbeville, Louisiana’s uncontrolled airport and flew about 15 miles to the northwest, where it struck a television tower in a rural area. The tower’s height was 1,793 feet and was marked on his FAA sectional chart at 1800 feet.

The plane crashed into the structure, 200 feet below the tower’s top, causing the structure to collapse.

The professional pilot held an FAA airline transport pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, multi-engine land, and instrument airplane ratings, as well as a flight instructor certificate with airplane single-engine land and multi-engine landing ratings and had a total flight time of 6,000 hours.