The pilot of the helicopter that crashed last week in Medford, killing country-music star Troy Gentry, reported before the aircraft went down that he was not able to control the engine with his throttle, the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday.
In its preliminary report on the crash, the NTSB said that commercial pilot James Evan Robinson, 30, attempted to make a forced landing using “a power-off, autorotational descent” — a maneuver he had performed in the past — at an estimated altitude of 950 feet, but that the rotors slowed to the point that observers on the ground could see “the individual rotor blades.” Robinson also was fatally injured in the crash.
The initial report does not establish a cause or assign blame, and the investigation is continuing.
The NTSB said Gentry, 50, half of the country-music duo Montgomery Gentry, had taken the flight at the Flying W Airport to get the lay of the land before the group was to play there Friday night.
The Schweizer 269C-1 helicopter operated by Helicopter Flight Services took off about 1 p.m. in good weather, but the flight ran into trouble in minutes, the NTSB said.
“The pilot reported . . . that he was unable to control engine rpm with throttle inputs,” the reports said. “He reported he could ‘roll’ the twist-grip, but that there was no corresponding change in engine rpm when he did so.”
After discussing the problem with a company flight instructor and another pilot, Robinson started the maneuver for a forced landing over the runway, but again ran into trouble, the report said.
“A video forwarded by local police showed the helicopter south of the runway as it entered what appeared to be a descent profile consistent with an autorotation,” the report said. “Toward the end of the video, the descent profile became more vertical and the rate of descent increased before the helicopter descended out of view. No sound could be heard from the helicopter.”
The chopper suffered significant damage on impact, the NTSB said.
The helicopter’s jackshaft and throttle control system has been sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for further examinations, the report said.
Gentry and his partner, Eddie Montgomery, had success on the country charts and radio in the 2000s, scoring No. 1 hits, some of which cracked the pop chart. The band released its debut album, Tattoos & Scars, in 1999, and mixed country music with Southern rock. It was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009.
A public celebration of Gentry’s life is scheduled for Thursday morning at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. A private, family interment will follow.