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Powerful Living By Anna Politano A Miracle in the air


This multi-engine turbojet, a Cessna 525, collided with one of Northfork Electric Cooperative’s poles near Elk City, Okla. Courtesy of FlightAware


Small aircraft collides with co-op poles, passengers and pilot not injured I


t was a cold February morning and Michael Eagon, a district lineman at Northfork Electric Cooperative (NFEC), was going about his business. A four to fi ve-inch layer


of snow had fallen the night before, fashioning a thin “white carpet” on the ground in western Oklahoma. Around 9:30 a.m., Eagon was dis- patched to check on a couple of damaged poles. A local farmer and co-op member had called the cooperative and reported two damaged poles lo- cated on a county road approximately two miles north of the Elk City Regional Business Airport in Elk City, Okla. The member who called stated he had been on the scene the night before and had not seen any damage. Clearly, something had happened and he thought the co-op should check on the poles. Eagon knew there were no outages associated with this call, and given the fact that it is not uncommon for poles to get hit, it was still “busi- ness as usual” for this NFEC lineman of seven years. Upon arriving at the scene, Eagon found two broken poles on a single-phase line. Both poles were broken approximately three feet above the ground, but the conductor wires were intact. Eagon observed that the fi rst pole, while broken, was still in place. The second pole was fl oating with a phase wire and neutral line still tied in place. “The very fi rst thing I like to do when I arrive at a scene is to identify if the line is still energized or not,” Eagon said. “The line was still hot, and I tried to gather as much information as I could fi nd at the location.”


6 WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP In a nearby field, Eagon identified wooden


pieces and debris from the pole that were scat- tered approximately 200 feet from where the damage occurred. But with no tracks in the fi eld to indicate if a vehicle had been on site, Eagon was puzzled. What would be big enough and have the needed force to damage the poles with- out leaving a mark on the ground? As NFEC General Manager Scott Copeland correctly point- ed out, what was “routine” had quickly become a “mystery.”


Unfolding a Mystery Eagon and his crew were getting a new pole set when deputies from the Beckham County Sheriff ’s Offi ce stopped at the scene and said they were investigating an airplane collision that in- volved “something wooden.” “When the deputies arrived the pieces started coming together, and it made more sense,” Eagon said. “The deputies said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was investigating a colli- sion that took place the night before, involving a small aircraft with pieces of wood stuck to it.” Back at the cooperative, Copeland received a call from Tom Latson, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). “Tom said he was investigating an incident in- volving a plane and possibly one of our power lines and asked if we were aware of it,” Copeland said. “I explained that we had a man at the scene for about the past hour and that we had been trying to piece the mystery together.” According to a preliminary report released by


NTSB, a multi-engine turbojet, a Cessna 525 (N61YP), was substantially damaged after impact- ing an electric utility pole two miles north of the Elk City Regional Business Airport. The collision happened around 11:00 p.m. CST on February 3, 2014. In poor weather conditions and low visibil- ity, the airplane, which was later identifi ed as a business aircraft, had departed from Rapid City, S.D.—carrying a pilot and six passengers who were not injured.


Upon collision with NFEC’s poles, the pilot executed a “go-around” procedure and landed at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Elk City Airport Manager Sharon Bustin was on duty that evening preparing for the arrival of the Cessna jet N61YP, which was a “regular cus- tomer” of the Elk City Airport. Bustin said the business aircraft brings in passengers and also picks up passengers. That evening there were two passengers waiting at the airport to be picked up by the plane. “I remember the weather was not good that night,” Bustin, a member of NFEC, said. “I heard the pilot saying they were on the way, and I began preparing for their arrival. Then I waited and never heard anything else. At one point I heard a plane going above our building.” When the plane did not arrive as scheduled, Bustin said she began monitoring the fl ight track- er system and tracked the plane at Will Rogers Airport. The pilot later called Bustin and alerted her about the incident, reporting that everyone was safe. Bustin sent the other two passengers home.


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