DNR pilot was texting before crash in northern Michigan
A top Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officer from Farmington Hills was texting while flying shortly before his plane crashed, according to preliminary federal findings.
An initial report by the National Transportation Safety Board said Lt. Arthur Green “communicated with a colleague via text message” indicating he would arrive at Harbor Springs airport at 11:25 p.m. Aug. 9.
Federal spokesmen declined further comment, but Emmet County Sheriff Peter Wallin said Green’s text was sent at 11:10 p.m. — 15 minutes before local police estimate as the time of the crash.
The text asked Conservation Officer Damon Owens to meet him at the airport and Green said he was about 25 minutes away, Wallin said.
An earlier text by Green was sent at 9:03 p.m. saying he would arrive between 10:45 p.m. and 11 p.m., Wallin said.
Department of Natural Resources spokesman Ed Golder said the agency is withholding comment until the investigation is complete.
Texting while flying is generally against Federal Aviation Administration regulations under a policy in place since May. Under rules for general aviation, including small aircraft, “no person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot in command of an aircraft allow the operation of, any portable electronic device.”
One exception, however, is if the pilot has determined the device “will not interfere with the safe operation of the navigation or communication system of the aircraft.”
The airport’s final approach instructions warn pilots to “overfly open field, brick yard and gravel pit as long as is practical before aligning with runway centerline.” It also instructs pilots to “avoid low, dragged-in approaches.”
Eighty-foot trees are located 201 feet from the runway’s asphalt approach, according to airport information.
Wreckage from the Piper plane was located at 7:30 a.m. Aug. 10, by employees of Emmet Brick & Block, which is located across the street from the end of the airport’s runway. The initial impact point was at the top of a tree several hundred feet east of the main wreckage.
Green, 58, was an experienced pilot. He had served in the U.S. Air Force and the Michigan Air National Guard before retiring in 2004. He served two tours in Kuwait.
The single-engine plane was owned by the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum in Detroit and built in 1977, according to FAA registry records.
Green, one of 13 DNR law enforcement first lieutenants in Michigan, supervised a seven-county district made up Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Genesee, Lapeer, Monroe, and St Clair. There are 218 conservation officers in the state.
Green was en route from Detroit City Airport to the Harbor Springs airfield, three miles east of the popular tourism resort.