Pilot error is now being blamed for an OHP plane crash that seriously injured a state trooper over the summer.
The plane went down near Tecumseh while authorities were searching for a suspect who they believe had a gun. The NTSB report claims the pilot was flying low and slow while using sign language to direct police to the suspect. The NTSB says in part:
"The pilot reduced engine power and entered a slow descending turn over the vehicle driver's location." That's where the pilot saw a man who deputies suspected to be an armed drunk driver.
"That's always been a problem being able to communicate with officers on the ground," News 9 helicopter pilot Jim Gardner said.
The NTSB says the pilot, Trooper Dennis Dickens, could only talk to one person on the ground. Each of the agencies involved use different radio frequencies, meaning Dickens was unable to directly talk with tribal, county or city authorities.
"Even some of the police officers do not have handheld radios," OHP Capt. George Brown said. "In a lot of time, when we do have the luxury of getting together and formulating a plan, we can go to mutual aid on a county radio."
Brown says OHP does not endorse Dickens' flying maneuver. Dickens tells the federal investigators that, at some point, the left wing stalled hard, the nose pitched down and rotated left.
"Probably, the urge of protecting his people overcame flying the aircraft," said Gardner.
Change is already happening because of the crash. OHP now requires pilots to maintain a minimum of 500 feet while flying and the agency is looking at ways to combat its communication limitations.
"The biggest thing that you can say about this whole thing is communication is what caused the accident," Gardner said.
The NTSB has not yet released its final report on the investigation. That report is expected within the next year. Dickens is still recovering from the crash. He is undergoing physical therapy.