From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 9 - 10/19/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Airplane Clips Powerline
Plane confiscated: pilot facing charges
by Jennel Lovell & Rob Shaul

At approximately 5:46 p.m. on October 12 the sheriff's office responded to a downed power line 3 miles south of Pinedale on Mesa Road. An eyewitness stated he had seen a low flying aircraft followed by a blue flash of light. A search of the surrounding area and local airports was conducted with no sign of the aircraft.

According to Undersheriff Henry Schmidt, the pilot of the aircraft was Claude O. McBroom, from Nathrop, Colorado. Mr. McBroom told the sheriff's office he was flying up to go on a hunting trip when he saw some antelope on the Mesa. Mr. McBroom told the sheriff he turned his aircraft to look at the antelope when he hit the powerline.

Mr. McBroom cut the powerline with the propeller of his plane. The line flew up over the top of the aircraft and cracked the canopy. Mr. McBroom told the sheriff he thought he was flying at 300 feet when he made the turn, but the power line he cut was just 56 feet off the ground.

According to Customer Business Manager of southwest Wyoming for Pacific Power, Barry Beausoleil, Mr. McBroom's propeller cut the 3/8-inch thick static wire of the line. Mr. Beausoleil described the static wire as the "lightning" rod of the line. When it was cut, it fell down onto other power lines carrying 69,000 volts.

The force of the collision between Mr. McBroom's plane and the wire snapped off 10 feet of the power pole. Further, at the base of that post and another, there was a 4-inch gap between the post and the edges of the post hole due to the swaying of the post from the severity of the hit.

Mr. McBroom did not report the collision. When he struck the powerline, the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) on his aircraft went off, and alerted the Sheriff's department, and aviation officials. In response, the Sheriff's department conducted a search of the Mesa with ELT locators searching for what they thought was a downed plane.

Following the collision, Mr. McBroom flew his aircraft north until bad weather forced him to land at a private airport near Jackson, said Mr. Schmidt. Upon landing, he called the FAA to report that his ELT went off, but that he was unhurt. He did not report striking the power line.

It took until Friday morning, said Mr. Schmidt, for the sheriff's department to track down Mr. McBroom. The department was in contact with an Air Force base in Virginia which tracked Mr. McBroom's ELT signal using satellites. The Air Force system tracked Mr. McBroom's plane and knew he had landed within a 100 mile circumference of Pinedale.

Through the ELT, FAA and Air Force, the Sheriff's department was able to identify the specific aircraft and get Mr. McBroom's residence in Colorado. The department called his residence and located Mr. McBroom in Teton County.

Mr. Schmidt said the Sheriff and the FAA have taken control of the aircraft, and Mr. McBroom is facing two counts, low and dangerous flight of an aircraft and harassing wildlife by using a flying machine. He is now out on a $2,000 bond and is facing court on October 19, 2000 at 10:00 a.m. with Judge John Crow. In addition, Mr. McBroom may be liable to pay up to $25,000 in repair costs to Pacific Power.

Pinedale businesses report the power outage was chaotic, yet productive. Mike and Gwen Schwab said with the help of their generator, the gasoline pumps and microwave were up and running at Centerfire 66.

Jo Crandall said the Pinedale Fine Arts Council's piano performance by Mr. Barry Douglas had a good turn-out despite the power outage. PFAC had the lanterns out and ready to light for backup lighting but the lights returned right before the concert. Kay at Stockman's said the night was very busy, but thanks to a very honest community, a good night for a candle lit dinner. <

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The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul