Inland Helicopters grounds flights in wake of crash

Student pilot killed in helicopter crash near Felts Field

SPOKANE - In the wake of the deadly crash a Robinson R22 helicopter into a neighborhood near Felts Field Wednesday Inland Helicopters grounded its helicopter fleet Thursday.

A student pilot working toward getting their private pilot's license was killed Wednesday afternoon when the Robinson R22 he was piloting crashed near Felts Field. The tail section came down in one yard while the rest of the airframe landed in the backyard of a home a short distance down the street.

The pilot was identified Thursday afternoon as Peter Hecker, 29.

Representatives with Inland Helicopters said Thursday that Hecker had a student pilot's license and had enough flight experience to fly solo. Wednesday's flight was not this first solo flight. A friend of Hecker's, Phillip Fletcher, said Thursday that he was originally from Dayton, Washington and had attended ITT Tech. He was working as an information technology technician with the Idaho Department of Lands but had been taking flight lessons since February and had hoped to become a helicopter pilot and switch careers.

Fletcher, who said he had known Hecker since they were in the fifth grade, described him as quiet, introverted and a lover of the outdoors.

Inland Helicopters says that earlier in the day Hecker had gone up with an instructor pilot. They landed, the instructor pilot got out of the aircraft and then Hecker took off again on a solo flight.

The FAA dispatched three investigators to the crash scene Wednesday while an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Bureau was flying up from California Thursday to join the crash investigation.

In the wake of the mishap Angelo Ferraro of Inland Helicopters released the following statement on behalf of the company:

All of us at Inland Helicopters are heartbroken at the loss of one of our students and fellow pilot. Our hearts go out to his family and we would like to express condolences to them for their great loss. We are shocked and surprised at this accident, considering the safety record of our school and the helicopters that we train in. This is the first and only accident of any type that we have experienced in the 14 years of training student pilots and other flight operations. Although we do not know the cause of this tragic accident, we are cooperating fully with the FAA and other authorities in their investigation.

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