Pilot error following engine maintenance problems caused the 2017 helicopter crash that killed country singer Troy Gentry and the pilot at a small Burlington County airport where he was to perform that night, federal investigators said.
The pilot cut the engine too soon as he tried an emergency landing, leading to an uncontrolled descent, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a final report. Instead of reaching the runway at the Flying W Airport in Medford, the helicopter crashed in woods nearby.
Gentry, 50, half of the award-winning duo Montgomery Gentry, was taking a pleasure and orientation flight before the planned Sept. 8 concert at the airport-resort. The other half of the duo, Eddie Montgomery, and other musicians were at the airport at the time.
Several minutes after takeoff, pilot James Evan Robinson reported that he couldn’t control the engine. Experts on the ground suggested a shallow, run-on landing, but he said he planned to cut the engine and try to glide in, a maneuver he said he had done before, the report said.
The experts stressed the need to wait until he was over the runway to turn off the engine, but investigators found that he did so a quarter-mile to a half-mile out. The NTSB said the maintenance crew’s failure to rig the throttle control assembly before the flight contributed to the crash.
Gentry was born in Lexington, Ky., where he met Montgomery. Montgomery Gentry, which mixed country music and Southern rock, had success on the country charts in the 2000s, scoring No. 1 hits that included “Roll With Me” and “Back When I Knew It All.” Some of their songs cracked the Top 40 pop charts.