Pilot killed in helicopter crash was former wildland firefighter

Lora Trout had more than 6 years experience on helitack and fire crews in Montana, Colorado, and California

Lora Trout
Lora Trout. Photo via USFS.

This article was first published at Fire Aviation.

A former wildland firefighter with experience on helitack and fire crews was killed in the crash of a helicopter in a Dallas suburb Friday.

After six years on the Teton Interagency Helitack crew in Jackson, Wyoming, Lora Trout left to fulfill her dream of flying helicopters full-time and return to fight fire as a pilot. Prior to her work in helitack she worked as a wildland firefighter on the White River National Forest in Colorado and the Boise National Forest in Idaho. She also worked as a helitack squad boss on the Tonto National Forest in Arizona.

Lora Trout
Lora Trout. USFS photo.

She became licensed as a helicopter pilot and got a job as a tour pilot, then achieved the next step, becoming certified as flight instructor.

Tail rotor
Investigator with tail rotor from the March 25 helicopter crash. ABC 8 image.

Lora was giving a lesson to Ty Wallis Friday when the tail boom separated from the Robinson R44, (N514CD), causing the helicopter to crash and catch fire in a vacant lot in Rowlett, Texas. Both were killed.

“Lora was a dear friend, dedicated coworker, physical fitness leader, and an immediate positive influence to all she knew,” said a statement from the Bridger-Teton National Forest. “Her charismatic wit and strength were evident in all she did, particularly in her passion for aviation and wildland firefighting. To those that knew her, she was a “go to” for advice, help, and humor.”

In a series of Tweets, Elan Head, a helicopter pilot and contributor to Vertical Magazine, said Lora was qualified as a Helicopter Manager, Short Haul, and was an EMT. Ms. Head described Lora as a friend and a “bad ass.” Check out the Twitter thread below (or see it on Twitter).

In a YouTube video, Juan Browne said the main rotor struck the tail boom, causing the separation of the tail rotor assembly.

It appears that the only photos without Lora showing a big smile are when she has her back turned.

Lora Trout
Lora Trout. Photo via USFS.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of Lora.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

12 thoughts on “Pilot killed in helicopter crash was former wildland firefighter”

  1. Such sincere condolences are extended to the families, relatives and friends of Instructor Lora and Student Ty, who both perished tragically in a helicopter crash in Texas on Friday. May their lives in Earth be honoured by those who remain, and may their lives not have been lost in vain. God bless you all!

  2. Sounds like he was blaming the Pilot, NO IT WASN’T HER FAULT….
    go on you tube, apparently, this happens A LOT….

  3. This particular issue has occurred before with this helicopter.
    Robinson R44s were involved in 42 fatal crashes in the U.S. from 2006 to 2016, more than any other civilian helicopter, according to a Times analysis of National Transportation Safety Board accident reports.
    That translates to 1.6 deadly accidents per 100,000 hours flown — a rate nearly 50% higher than any other of the dozen most common civilian models whose flight hours are tracked by the Federal Aviation Administration.
    I refer you to this article in the Los Angeles Times
    https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-robinson-helicopters/

    1. As Juan alludes to in the video, this is likely due to the fact that 1st year trainee pilots aren’t out flying A-Stars, Jet Rangers, or Hueys en masse; they fly Robinsons. There may be a correlation, but it’s seemingly rather unlikely to be a causation stemming from the aircraft themselves.

      1. Well, the problem with that assertion is that there are literally hundreds of experienced pilots who have flown this model in the past, who sternly refuse to fly it today. And they have made such thoughts well known on the matter – it’s not as if it is some industry secret. And they do not refuse to fly this model because they magically woke up one morning, and decided just for the fun of it it to express substantial concerns about this model from a safety standpoint! They have done so because there is a very large belief in the industry among experienced pilots (a large consensus) that this design is inherently flawed and unnecessarily dangerous. Reality!

        And as Juan alluded to in his youtube vid – an extreme and abrupt control input from the pilot can cause bumping of the main rotor mast, which can lead to the boon being severed by the main rotor blades. If that is true and it certainly appears to be true then why would the design of the helicopter’s controls not take into account that danger and the input controls be designed in such a manner that such extreme and abrupt pilot inputs are not permitted to be made through the helicopter controls???? Seriously, why would the helicopter’s input controls be designed in such a manner that a pilot can operate them in any manner that would bump the main rotor into its mast accidently? It’s hard to imagine you could not easily design input controls that simply would never permit such dangerous mast bumping inputs to be made by the pilot.

        1. Joe – mast bumping is something that can happen in every single 2-bladed helicopter ever produced. Hueys, jetrangers, robinsons … all of them.

          William – the numbers you point to are for all accidents – not just mast bumping. Mast bumping is a fairly uncommon cause of crashes. Robinson has some other issues, such as low blade inertia on the 22, that are blamed for more crashes.

          Robinson has a higher crash visibility due to the number that are being used by the most inexperienced group of pilots – students.

    2. There are literally hundreds of experienced pilots in the industry, who refuse to fly this model and it is well known. It’s not like it is an industry secret. There is a consensus among a very large number of experienced pilots that this helicopter has a flawed overall design and is inherently unnecessarily dangerous, which is why they refuse to fly it.

    3. I have always considered robinson helicopters, caskets with rotor blades. Will not fly in them….

  4. My son worked with Lora as a Wildland Firefighter and he too is a pilot. This really hits home.
    My heart is heavy, may Lora’s and Ty’s family find peace.

  5. This story breaks my heart. She sounds so lovely. She was so loved.
    I am a helicopter pilot and had my training in a R44. After purchasing a turbine
    helicopter with partners, I vowed not to get in a Robinson again. May this
    beautiful young woman rest in peace.

  6. From many comments, it sounds like Lora’s only mistake was her decision to fly this helicopter. If that’s true, why doesn’t every pilot who makes the same “mistake” also crash? Also, if this was not her first time flying this model, how did she survive previous flights? Did she make mistakes during those previous flights and that saved her?

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