The National Transportation Safety Board has issued its preliminary report on the helicopter crash that took the life of the pilot, James Evan Robinson, as well as Troy Gentry, one half of country music duo Montgomery Gentry, citing a faulty engine as the cause of the crash.
According to TMZ, the report says the pilot “was unable to control engine rpm with throttle inputs,” meaning the engine wasn’t responding to throttle inputs, ultimately resulting in the pilot’s loss of control. The report goes on to say that Robison “could ‘roll’ the twist-grip, but that there was no corresponding change in engine rpm when he did so.”
Two certified helicopter flight instructors attempted to advise and offer Robinson options for the safest potential landing. They discussed “a shallow approach to a run-on landing, or a power-off, autorotational descent to landing.” Ultimately, Robinson elected to stop the engine for an autorotation a maneuver he had performed “numerous” times before. He was advised to perform the procedure over the runway.
The report states the autorotation was started 950 feet above the ground. The helicopter was quiet during the descent as the engine was off, and during the descent, the RPM “decayed to the point where the instructor could see the individual rotor blades.” A high-pitched whine was heard as the helicopter crashed.
Robinson held both commercial and instructor pilot certificates and had logged over 480 hours of flight time, with over 300 total hours in the make and model of the helicopter in question.
The flight was a “spur of the moment” ride was a “orientation/pleasure flight” to show Gentry the layout of the venue he’d be performing in that night.
A final report on the accident from the NTSB may take up to a year or longer to complete. A Celebration of Life for Gentry will take place tomorrow (September 14th) at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. It will be streamed live here at 11am Central Time.