Pilot may be in hot water after witnesses say low-flying plane buzzed beach


by Jeremy Desel / 11 News


Posted on March 16, 2010 at 10:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 23 at 3:39 PM

HOUSTON—On a sunny Saturday on the beach, you might expect a crowd, but you don't expect a close encounter with an airborne plane.

But that's exactly what happened to a group of people on Crystal Beach.
Eric Nunez said he was getting ready to take a picture when he spotted the plane. 
“I looked to my right and I just see this plane coming nose first," Nunez said.
“It just happened in a split second,” Jonathan Sonier, who was just a few feet away from Nunez at the time, said.
Terry Rodery wasn’t sure what to think.
“I didn’t know if I was gonna die. Or others in our group were gonna’ die. At first I thought that he was going to crash or make an emergency landing. There was no room for him to do that,” Rodery said.
There wasn't any room, because the beach was filled with dozens of Jeeps gathered for a rally.  There were -- literally -- hundreds of people.      
“He actually went beside a couple of Jeeps with his wings I’d say less than 10 feet,” said Nunez. “It got my attention. Some people hit the ground. Nobody knew what to expect.”
“I didn’t know if I should dive for cover or what exactly what he was doing,” another witness said.
People dove for cover, but some think the pilot may be looking for cover now.
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed it's investigating the incident after receiving a number of complaints, including one from the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office.
It is a federal violation to operate a plane lower than 1,000 feet in a populated area.
“Everything takes a split-second to go bad. Thank God it didn’t,” Sonier said.
11 News tracked the plane to Beaumont.
According to FAA records, N134PS is a Diamond Aircraft DA-40 that operates out of KUSA Aviation.
It is a plane that is available for flight training.
KUSA says the plane “was not under our operational control Saturday,” but it was flown three times.
At least one of those times, it was flown by the plane’s owner, Bryan Kirbow of Beaumont.
Sources said that’s who FAA investigators think was flying the plane over the beach.
We showed a photo of the plane posted on KUSA’s Web site to the witnesses.
They said they have no doubt it's the plane that buzzed them.
All mentions of the plane have since been removed from the KUSA Aviation Web site.
11 News tried to reach Kirbow and had no success.
The FAA punishment for something like this can be harsh.  Pilots can lose their licenses.