After a routine mosquito abatement flight, an airplane crash that left two dead will likely lead to changes at a Slidell airport.
Wayne Fisher, 68, and Donald Pechon, 59, were found dead after another pilot reported seeing a spark of electricity from high-power transmission lines near the Slidell Municipal Airport followed by a plume of flame just north of a runway. The pilots collided with the transmission towers, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board. The report notes that it was a calm, clear night at the time of the crash, with visibility at 10 miles. According to Airport manager Richard Artigue, both men were experienced pilots and Fisher was a reserved deputy with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and flew helicopters in that capacity.
The primary factor in the crash, appears to be the location of the towers in relation to the airport. Even though the towers conform to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, Artigue reported that local officials have long recognized the potential safety hazard. While the only other fatal crash at Slidell Municipal Airport occurred in 1974, the April 19 crash has compelled officials to address the relocation of the transmission lines. As Artigue noted, the airport is used by far less experienced pilots than Fisher and Pechon and is heavily utilized for student pilot training.