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Crop-duster pilot may not have seen tower 

Credit:  Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer, San Francisco Chronicle, www.sfgate.com 20 January 2011 ~~

The pilot of a crop-dusting plane may not have seen a meteorological tower before he crashed into it and died in Contra Costa County, according to a preliminary report by federal investigators.

Stephen Allen, 58, of Courtland (Sacramento County) died after his S-2R Thrush Commander crashed into the 197-foot tower on Webb Tract Island the morning of Jan. 10. The island is in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta northeast of the Antioch Bridge.

Allen was applying seed at the time and witnesses “did not report seeing the airplane perform any evasive maneuvers prior to the impact,” said the report issued Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Meteorological towers are used for gathering wind data during the development of wind-energy conversion facilities, and low-flying aircraft “may be affected,” the report said. The tower on Webb Tract Island was erected in April 2009.

“The fact that these towers are narrow, unmarked and gray in color makes for a structure that is nearly invisible under some atmospheric conditions,” the safety board said.

Source:  Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer, San Francisco Chronicle, www.sfgate.com 20 January 2011

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