Crop Duster Facing FAA Sanctions

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The FAA is proposing to levy an $11,000 fine against a Colorado crop dusting company after residents of a new housing development complained one of their aircraft was flying too low over their houses. The agency is also pondering a 120-day certificate suspension for the unidentified pilot of the Grumman Ag Cat that was captured on cellphone video flying directly at the Fossil Creek Ranch development on the outskirts of Fort Collins while spraying a sugar beet field across the street. It's hard to tell from the video how much clearance there was between the big biplane and the nearest houses but it was too close for comfort for those who saw it coming from their second-floor windows. "Had he not been able to pull that plane up he'd have flown straight through my house," resident Stephanie Feller told The Coloradoan just after the incident last August. "He had no exit if anything happened. He flew down the street with his wings literally below rooftop level."

Residents of the neighborhood complained to the FAA, which spent seven months investigating and determined the flight broke five regs and added up to being "careless or reckless so as to endanger the lives and property of others," according to documents the paper said it obtained in a freedom of information request. The company was notified of the proposed sanctions in April but they have not been levied yet. Residents also complained of the physical effects of the spraying, saying they suffered burning eyes and skin irritation from the fungicide. A local farmer defended he crop dusting company, saying residents should have known what they were in for before the bought houses adjoining farmland. "We didn't ask all these people to move here," said Betty Willis. "This was known as the finest farm area in the United States. It's all getting full of houses."