Home Medical Factors Facing Pilots Aviation Stories Of Interest FAA Exam Aviation News Maintenance and Aircraft Mechanics General Aviation Helicopters
Aviation History Legal Issues In Aviation Links To Other Sites Editorials Hot Air Balloon Aviation Training Handbooks Read Online Upcoming Events Editorials


Settlement Reached In Agricultural Pilot Killed By Unmarked Evaluation Tower

September 10, 2014 - A settlement has been reached in the wrongful death suit filed by the family of agricultural aviator Steve Allen in the amount $6.7 million and as a result, is establishing the standard of care as to the use of meteorological evaluation towers for wind prospecting in agricultural areas.

On January 10, 2011, a 60-meter meteorological evaluation tower (MET) that had been erected in April of 2009 took the life of well-known and respected Northern California agricultural aviator, Steve Allen in his Rockwell International S-2R aircraft, registration: N4977X.

Allen had been hired by Bouldin Farming Company to spread winter wheat on one of the fields in Webb Tract Island, located in Contra Costa County, California. The tower was an eight-inch galvanized, unmarked, unlit tower manufactured by NRG Systems, Inc.

It was installed by Echelon Environmental Energy and PDC Corporation who had been hired by Renewable Resources Group, the agent and representative of ZKS Real Estate Partners and Delta Wetland Properties to monitor wind levels to prospect for the potential of a wind energy farm on Webb Tract.


The tower was constructed in a fashion to avoid being above 200 feet, which would have thereby triggered the FAA regulations that required the tower to be marked in a fashion that it was visible and could be seen by low flying aviators.

These companies were mindful that the FAA had a requirement of marking and lighting such a tower if it exceeded 200 feet. By attempting to erect a tower literally inches under 200 feet, they believed that the tower was not required to be evaluated or registered with the FAA, nor compliant with the requirements that it be marked and made visible if over 200 feet.

On the day of the plane crash, Allen was never made aware of the existence of the tower by Bouldin Farming Company, and from eyewitness accounts, it was clear that he never saw it before he struck it and fell to his death. Allen’s death was not the first where agricultural aviators struck unmarked and unlit METs during daytime operations.



These towers, in the last five to ten years, have become much more popular and utilized as investors look for locations to install wind farms. The same towers have been the subject of NTSB advisories as to the danger they pose to agricultural aviators.

Allen, who was 58 at the time of his death, had logged over 26,000 hours in his agricultural aircraft, had a stellar reputation for safety and ability. “He set the gold standard for aerial application,” said Brent Tadman, farms operation manager for M&T Staten.

 “Steve Allen was a consummate professional and our go-to agricultural aviator. His death was a tragic and unacceptable loss that we all felt,” said Mark Boyd, farms operation manager for Hastings Island. Both of these gentlemen testified that the standard of care required farmers to tell agricultural aviators of obstacles like this one once they are created, something that did not happen in this incident.

Andrew Moore, executive director for the National Agricultural Aviation Association stated, “We believe that this case, and the result, sets the standard of care in the agricultural and MET community. Now those individuals who lease land for the use of METs and wind energy investors have to recognize that the standard for them is to mark these towers and obstructions so that agricultural aviators will be able to be aware of their presence and avoid them accordingly. Strobe lighting, painting and other visible markings along with databases showing exact geographical locations of these towers are some of the proper safety standards to use to protect agricultural aviators from low-level towers.”

“Agricultural aviators deal with hazards every day they are in the air and they need to know of obstacles and hazards. We believe this case establishes a standard of care in the community, and wind energy and agricultural businesses are now on notice of this standard of care that is required of them and the potential exposure that they face, should they not properly and adequately mark these towers so that members of the aviation community are not killed,” said Rod Thomas, owner of Thomas Helicopters in Gooding, Idaho and 2014 president of the National Agricultural Aviation Research and Education Foundation who also testified in this action.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause(s) of this accident to be an in-flight collision with an unmarked meteorological evaluation tower (MET) during an aerial application flight due to the pilot's failure to see and avoid the obstacle. Contributing to the accident was the lack of visual conspicuity of the MET and the lack of information available to the pilot about the MET before the flight.

This matter was scheduled for trial in Contra Costa County in front of Hon. Laurel Brady on October 6, 2014. Previously, Mrs. Allen had helped sponsor legislation in California and Colorado to have towers of this nature marked and identified so that agricultural aviators would be notified and aware of MET’s existence so they could be avoided.

Mrs. Allen continues to this day working with the NAAA and others so that these types of obstructions are adequately marked and other families are not put through the same type of tragic loss that she and Steve Allen’s daughters have had to endure.
Other News Stories (For the latest news please checkout our home page)
blog comments powered by Disqus  
Home Aviation News Aviation Stories Of Interest FAA Exam Upcoming Events Links To Other Sites General Aviation Helicopters Medical Factors Facing Pilots
Maintenance and Aircraft Mechanics Hot Air Balloon Aviation Training Handbooks Read Online Aviation History Legal Issues In Aviation Sea Planes Editorials
 ©AvStop Online Magazine                                                                 Contact Us                                                  Return To News                                          Bookmark and Share  

AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine