Pilot says he followed protocol during mosquito spray

Low-flying plane startles pedestrians, motorists on Ravenel bridge
Published: Apr. 17, 2013 at 11:10 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2013 at 4:06 AM EDT
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MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - A pilot is saying he followed all safety protocols as he flew over the Arthur Ravenel Bridge during a mosquito control operation on Wednesday.

Tommy Phillips says he has been hired by Charleston County Government to spray the area around Drum Island for the past seven years.

"It wasn't very low to me and it wasn't very close and there wasn't any danger," he says.  "I'd be an idiot to travel at 150 miles per hour and take chances."

Several people reported seeing the plane and calling emergency officials due to the proximity of the craft to the bridge.

"We have a crazy plane flying over the Ravenel Bridge," a woman can be heard telling a 911 dispatcher."I don't know anything about planes, but I'm not kidding you when I say he barely missed part of the bridge."

Med student Garrick Klaybor was running over the around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday when he also spotted the plane flying closely over the bridge.

"It surprised me and it was a little exhilarating," said Klaybor who reported that the plane flew over the bridge at least five times before heading towards Sullivan's Island. "It was kind of cool to see, but a little too close for comfort."

Phillips says he stays at least 100 feet above ground during the aerial spraying.

"I want people to know we take them into consideration," he says.  "We're there to prevent mosquitoes and West Nile virus."

The Federal Aviation Administration announced it would investigate the incident, despite Charleston County Government officials saying that the pilot was following normal protocol within FAA safety guidelines, which enables crafts to fly low to treat mosquito larvae.  Phillips says he has been cleared by the FAA.

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