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Pilot dies in gyrocopter crash at Billings airport

BILLINGS- A 74-year-old male pilot of an experimental gyrocopter died Wednesday afternoon after crashing into a hangar at Billings Logan International Airport.

The call came at 12:43 p.m. when a bystander heard the crash on the far west end of Billings Logan International Airport, Billings Police Lt. Brandon Wooley said.

According to Kevin Ploehn, director of aviation and transit for Billings Logan International Airport, the pilot of the gyrocopter had not been in contact with the tower, and air traffic controllers were unaware of the accident until the 911 call.

Authorities are uncertain if the pilot died in the crash or had health problems prior. No one else was in the helicopter when it crashed.

A gyrocopter is similar to a helicopter, but the main rotor and tail rotor operate separately, with the tail rotor providing forward propulsion and the main rotor providing the vertical lift.

Gyrocopters tend to be recreational vehicles, and they fly lower and slower than helicopters.

The Yellowstone County coroner was on the scene Wednesday afternoon. Billings police, Billings firefighters and airport police also responded.

Wooley said Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials will conduct an investigation.

The inspectors are expected to arrive in Billings tomorrow. But results of the investigation will likely come much further down the road, as these investigations often take months to resolve, said Ploehn.

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