Employees at a Mesa airport were stunned Friday by the death of Chandler entrepreneur Ned Kent Buher, the owner of several Valley gas stations and a Sedona helicopter tour company.
Buher, 41, whose helicopter crashed while he attempted to land it on a flatbed trailer, was the sixth person to die this year in flights originating from Falcon Field Municipal Airport in Mesa.
"It seems like I really don’t want to know anybody anymore," said Marty Urdinarrain, a Falcon Field maintenance and operations technician who helped service Buher’s aircraft. "One minute you are talking to them, the next minute they are in an incident."
"Definitely, people are kind of a little emotional right now," said Vicki Kerr, airport management assistant.
Buher left behind a wife and two children, ages 1 1/2 and 3, Kerr said. His parents flew in from Indiana after hearing of the crash, which occurred about 9:10 p.m. on Thursday.
"He delighted in being a father. He had a very closeknit family," Kerr said. "Ned was a good person."
Buher was licensed to fly airplanes, helicopters, and commercial aircraft, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Besides his gas stations, he also owned Arizona Helicopter Adventures, a sightseeing company in Sedona.
His sister Patrice Buher, a Scottsdale resident, has been out to the crash site.
"All the things you hope to do in life and he tried to do that in a short period of time so he’s leaving behind quite a bit for all of us to try to pick up," she said.
On Thursday, Buher attempted to land his Bell Jet Ranger helicopter on a trailer, which Kerr said he intended to wheel into a hangar.
Such maneuvers are common, but risky, said Prescott helicopter pilot Jada Schell.
Buher had landed the helicopter on the flatbed once, then took off again, landed on the tarmac and fueled up, said Mesa police spokesman Tim Gaffney. When he tried to put it back on the trailer, one of the helicopter’s skids caught on a piece of raised metal, Gaffney said.
The helicopter tipped and slammed into the ground, killing Buher instantly, officials said. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, which was one of a string of fatal crashes since January involving flights from Falcon Field at Greenfield and McKellips roads.
Two men died May 31 after their biplane crashed near the Beeline Highway 15 minutes after taking off from the airport. On Feb. 17, an experimental aircraft left the airport and hit the ground near Apache Junction, killing two men. A pilot for the Mesa-based Air West died Jan. 5 when his plane crashed while en route from Falcon Field to Colorado.
Donn Walker, an FAA spokesman, said each of the four fatal crashes was unique and had nothing to do with the airport.
Walker also said Falcon Field is busier than the international airports in Tucson, Portland and other cities, with 281,742 takeoffs and landings in 2003.