Fans of the History Channel program “Ax Men” may recognize the name William Bart Colantuono. He was featured on the show in seasons 2 and 3 as part of R&R Aviation, which describes him on their web site as “One of the Greatest Heli-Logging Pilots of All Time.” Colantuono died after his helicopter crashed near Detroit on Monday, September 16th, while hauling timber to a logging deck.
Before working for R&R Connor and achieving some fame on television, Colantuono was a pilot for the U.S. Navy, and had flown about 29,000 hours in various helicopters since leaving the military, including his own B model Huey as well as K-Max’s, R44’s, MD-500’s, and Jet Rangers. He was considered highly skilled and experienced and was well-known for training other successful helicopter pilots.
According to witnesses, Colantuono released the timber load shortly before the crash, indicating that he was aware of a problem with the helicopter and was attempting to compensate for something. The crash was preceded by a snapping noise, according to nearby witnesses, who then saw the rotor spin off of the helicopter, which subsequently turned upside-down and crashed to the ground. Colantuono was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash but has not made any findings public as yet. Witnesses have described the crash as a “freak accident,” and considering the skill and experience of the pilot a mechanical failure is suspected to be the cause. Colantuono is survived by four children, his ex-wife, and his fiancée.