Valley man crashed ultralight aircraft, vows to fly again


The Visalia Fire Department says pilot Robert Longpre is a danger to himself and others. He crashed his ultralight into a field on the outskirts of Visalia at Riggin and Akers.

Roland Longpre is an ultralight pilot who loves soaring high in the sky. Friends call him Digger. And on Thursday he dug himself one big hole after crashing into this dirt field.

"I flew right into it. I didn't even see it." said Longpre.

Longpre got caught flying low with the sun directly in his eyes. Witnesses nearby could see him taking a nosedive while clipping power lines on his way down.

"I knew it was going into the ground. Turned around and went to call 911 at about the time it hit." said resident Tom Townsend.

SoCal Edison crews rushed to the scene to try and fix the problem. Some residents were left without power for 45 minutes. Emergency crews also rushed to Longpre's aid. Even though he sure looked like he could use it, he declined treatment.

"Thank god he's ok and everybody's ok. But the ramifications could have been catastrophic." said Charlie Norman of the Visalia Fire Department.

The Visalia Fire Department says this isn't the first time they've responded to a crash by Longpre. And their services aren't free. He's expected to get a $500-$1000 bill from the fire department and possibly another one from SoCal Edison.

"I guess that's the price of having a hobby huh. I don't know they didn't tell me that but I'm sure they will." added Longpre.

The adventure seeker says despite his pocketbook taking a big hit, he wouldn't think twice about flying again.

"I mean it's an accident. What do you, you fall off your bike, your child falls off the bike. Do you tell your child not to ride a bicycle no more?" said Longpre.

Now to fly one of these things it doesn't take the same kind of license say an airline pilot uses because the FAA considers ultralights to be in a different category.

SoCal Edison says total of more than 12,000 customers were without power for about an hour. All power should be restored by early Friday morning.

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