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FAA records indicate pilot's medical certification expired in October

BRIDGEWATER--Federal Aviation Administration records indicate that the Sioux Falls attorney who died Sunday when his plane crashed in southern McCook County did not have the medical certificate he legally needed to fly.

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BRIDGEWATER-Federal Aviation Administration records indicate that the Sioux Falls attorney who died Sunday when his plane crashed in southern McCook County did not have the medical certificate he legally needed to fly.

Comet Haraldson, who was 69 at the time of his death, had flown from Tea to Mitchell earlier that day and was making the return trip when he crashed near the intersection of 263rd Street and 440th Avenue.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration website that keeps information on pilots' certifications, Haraldson, who lived in Lincoln County, got a private pilot's license in January 2007.

According to that same website, Haraldson last updated his medical certification in October of 2016. That was a third-class certification which, under the Federal Code of Regulations, expires after 24 months of the date on the medical certificate, as Haraldson was over the age of 40 when his plane crashed Sunday.

Pilots are not legally allowed to operate planes if they do not have an up-to-date medical certification or if they have not completed an alternative medical course.

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While some aircraft such as balloons and gliders do not require medical certification, operating as a private pilot does.

Representatives from the FAA's Aerospace Medical Certification Division said they are unsure exactly how long it takes pilots' online information to update after a new medical certificate is obtained and refused to comment on the status of Haraldson's certification. But if the October 2016 certification was Haraldson's most recent, it would have expired in October 2018, making him unable to legally fly after that point.

An audio recording of air traffic control communication from before Haraldson's plane crashed on Sunday indicated that Haraldson was having a medical issue while in the air and contacted air traffic controllers at about 2:15 p.m. on Sunday.

In that recording, air traffic controllers can be heard repeatedly suggesting that Haraldson find a road or a field where he could land and they could send emergency personnel to help him.

"If you can safely put the aircraft down at this point in a field, on a road, that's what we'd recommend, rather than losing consciousness at altitude there," an air traffic controller said about eight minutes after first making contact with Haraldson.

Soon after that, the controllers lost contact with Haraldson, and the wreckage of his single-engine plane was found later that day.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to investigate the crash, but the investigation has been slowed by furloughed workers. The Daily Republic was also unable to contact the FAA's legal department to confirm the legal repercussions for flying without an up-to-date medical certificate.

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