Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tampa International Airport (KTPA) control tower needs upgrades

Looking down at Tampa International Airport from the air traffic control tower, we see the exciting improvements coming to our airport. Unfortunately, working in the tower, we face a different reality.

Our tower is in poor condition. Parts of the tower exterior are being held together with repair-work sealant. The large glass windows, which are essential to monitor planes on the ground, are no longer up to safety standards. Our controllers, who work hard 24/7 to monitor one of the nation's most complex air systems, use antiquated technology like paper flight strips. We're unable to install a modern ground radar system in part because of wear and tear to the tower.

The airport is undergoing a $2 billion renovation project to improve the Tampa flight experience, yet our air traffic controllers, who are responsible for keeping travelers safe and flights on time, work in a deteriorating physical environment with largely outdated technologies.

Although we're making progress by implementing modernization projects nationwide, long-term advancements are hampered by an unstable, unpredictable funding stream. That is why we support current U.S. House legislation, HR 2997, the 21st Century Aviation, Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Act, which would create a federally chartered, not-for-profit air traffic control corporation to operate the system. The legislation would provide a stable, predictable funding stream that supports air traffic control services, staffing, hiring and training, long-term modernization, preventive maintenance and infrastructure modernization. It would also ensure the system keeps pace with current technology and would remove many of the government's slow, bureaucratic processes.

Tampa International is taking exciting and progressive steps toward the future of aviation, but modernization of our critical air traffic control function is falling behind. We can have a seamlessly run terminal, but without an updated air traffic control system, we are doing a great disservice to all Tampa travelers.

Jason Rebmann, facility representative, Tampa tower and terminal radar approach control, National Air Traffic Controllers Association 


Incident occurred July 23, 2017 in Swanzey, Cheshire County, New Hampshire

Patrick Blair, right, of Swanzey, signs paperwork for DiLuzio AEMT John Warner at the site of an ultralight aircraft crash in which Blair was a passenger in West Swanzey on Sunday evening.

SWANZEY, N.H. — At just before 8 p.m. on Sunday, Fire Mutual Aid received a telephone report from a Swanzey resident, who reported the pilot of a small glider appeared to be having trouble before crashing in the vicinity of the Mold Pro corporation, located at 51 Denman Thompson Highway near the Ashuelot River.

A second caller reported the aircraft had in the area of 179 Holbrook Roads.

In response, members of the Swanzey Fire Department and the Swanzey Police Department and Diluzio Ambulance responded to the initial call and established a staging area at Mold Pro.

Approximately 20 people took part in a ground search from the Mold Pro parking lot, assisted by aerial drones and off-road vehicles. Aerial drones were supplied by fire departments in Keene, Winchester and Troy, as well as the Brattleboro Reformer.

At a few minutes past 8 p.m., a caller reported to 911 that she had located the aircraft on her property in a swamp approximately 500 feet from Holbrook Avenue near the Ashuelot River. The caller told 911 that there were two occupants standing in the swamp and both appeared uninjured.

Emergency personnel from Swanzey and Diluzio Ambulance arrived at the crash site and reported there was a two-person, ultralight-style, power Shute aircraft which had struck a tree approximately 50 above the ground which damaged the aircraft and caused it to turnover in flight, according to a press release from the Swanzey Fire Department. As the aircraft fell, it struck a branch causing it to right itself and land in the swamp on its wheels.

The pilot, Robert Hutchinson Van Valzah, of Richmond N.H., and a passenger Patrick Blair, of Swanzey, told emergency personnel that they were not injured as a result of the accident and declined any medical treatment or transportation.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation, Bureau of Aeronautics, was notified and the bureau subsequently notified the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, all three of which are now investigating the cause of the accident.


Members of the Swanzey, N.H., Fire Department fly a DJI Phantom 4 Drone while searching for a person that reportedly crashed while flying a powered parachute around 7:42 p.m. on Sunday.

SWANZEY — A two-person ultralight aircraft crashed Sunday night near Holbrook Avenue, Swanzey Fire Chief Norman W. Skantze said in a news release. No one was injured in the crash.

Two witnesses reported seeing an aircraft go down near the Ashuelot River at 7:43 p.m., according to the news release.

Operating from a commercial parking lot on Denman Thompson Highway, Swanzey police and fire departments initiated a foot search supported by drones, the release said.

Soon after, at 8:06 p.m., one of the callers, Cynthia Brown, reported she had found the aircraft in a swamp on her property on Holbrook Avenue.

The aircraft hit a tree and turned over, then struck a branch on the way down, righting itself to land wheels-first in the swamp, the release said.

The pilot, Robert Hutchinson Van Valzah of Richmond, and the passenger, Patrick Blair of Swanzey, reported having no injuries and declined medical transport.

The plane was a Six Chuter SR2-powered parachute, according to Jim Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the crash. In an interview with The Sentinel, Skantze described the aircraft as an ultralight two-seater with a parachute and motor.