Friday, September 23, 2011

Thieves steal solar panels from FAA navigation facility in Puna, Hawaii.


Big Island police are investigating the theft of large solar panels from a Federal Aviation Administration navigation facility in Puna.

The facility is located on Highway 130 just past the 7-mile marker in the vicinity of Maku Ľu Farm Lots. It is one of several in Hawaii that send signals to commercial airlines flying in the Pacific Region.

Sometime between September 13 and September 17, unknown persons stole 12 panels and damaged two.

Between September 18 and September 22, the thieves used a vehicle to ram the front gate and remove 10 additional panels.

Police ask that anyone with information about these cases call Officer Matthew Bartz at 965-2716 or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Airport plans: Friedman Memorial (KSUN), Hailey, Idaho

HAILEY, IDAHO (KMVT-TV) The Hailey City Council has wrapped up half a dozen meetings to take comments about what to do regarding the next step for Friedman Memorial Airport. The open house discussions have allowed local residents to ask questions and give their input, as well.

Earlier this year the FAA suspended the environmental impact statement process.

What that means is that "all" of the options can be re–evaluated and get more community input.

Airport manager Rick Baird says "From my perspective as the airport manager, I don't care if we fix it at the existing site, or whether you fix it at a replacement airport site, you just have to fix it."

The city council will meet again at 5:30 next Monday night at city hall.

Then the Friedman Memorial Airport authority will meet next Tuesday evening in the Sun Valley inn's continental room beginning at 5:30. The city of Hailey and Blaine County will also participate in the meeting.

FAA Issues Warning for Pilots to Watch Out for NASA's Falling Dead Satellite

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert to pilots today warning flyers to be on the lookout for any signs of a huge NASA satellite expected to fall to Earth tonight (Sept. 23) or early tomorrow.

FAA officials released the special notice after NASA refined its estimates for the re-entry time of its Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), a 20-year-old climate satellite the size of a school bus that will fall from space sometime in the next 18 hours.

"Aircraft are advised that a potential hazard may occur due to re-entry of satellite UARS into the Earth's atmosphere," the FAA said in the statement. "FAA is working with the Department of Defense and NASA to ensure the most current re-entry information is provided to operators as quickly as possible."

NASA and the U.S. military's Space Surveillance Network still do not know exactly where the UARS satellite will fall when it hits Earth's atmosphere. Earlier this week, NASA scientists predicted that the satellite would miss North America altogether, but the space agency announced today that there is a slight chance that the 6-ton spacecraft could fall over the United States.

FAA officials told pilots to keep an eye out for any fireballs or other signs of the satellite's re-entry.

"In the interest of flight safety, it is critical that all pilots/flight crew members report any observed falling space debris to the appropriate [air traffic control] facility and include position, altitude, time, and direction of debris observed."

Any pilots, flight crewmembers or aircraft passengers who manage to observe the UARS satellite re-entry could get a spectacular view. Because the satellite is so large, its fiery re-entry should be visible as a bright fireball, even in daylight. If the satellite falls over the Earth's night side, the resulting light show could be spectacular, NASA officials have said.

NASA estimates that about 26 large pieces of the UARS satellite will survive the scorching hot temperatures of re-entry and reach the ground. But the chances of the debris posing an injury risk to people on the ground are extremely remote, NASA officials have said. [6 Biggest Spacecraft to Fall Uncontrolled From Space]

NASA and military officials have warned the public not to touch any UARS satellite debris, should the spacecraft fall over a populated area. Instead, any debris sightings should be reported to local law enforcement authorities, NASA officials said.

Restoration Pearson Air Museum hangar takes pains to ensure authenticity

September 23, 2011

Photo by Troy Wayrynen / The Columbian

David Hines of Saxon Painting of Tacoma brushes primer on an exterior window frame at the Pearson Air Museum’s historic hangar Thursday. The restoration project is designed to underscore the hangar’s role in Northwest aviation history.

Underneath its new black-on-white paint job, a hangar at Pearson Air Museum has a pretty colorful past.

The National Park Service is finishing a preservation project that will help reflect the hangar’s role in Northwest aviation history.

The restoration isn’t just a history lesson. Finding the suitable paint had elements of a science project.

Before the work crew could cover the building with a new coat of paint, historical researcher Sally Donovan helped uncover the past.

“We wanted to find the original paint colors. We took samples from interior and exterior window sashes” with a craft knife, said Donovan.

That included getting down to the substrate: the layer of wood right below the paint.

“Colors fade over time, so you have to pick places that were not exposed to light as much,” said Donovan, whose company is based in Hood River, Ore.

That might be under a window sill, she said, or at a spot along the side of a piece of trim where drips collected, forming thicker layers.

The samples were forwarded to a lab that used a powerful microscope to identify the layers of paint.

“You can tell a primer because of how thin it is,” she added. “You can tell if paint is glossy, if it’s lead-based, or if it’s a mixture.”

“The sample was probably six or seven layers thick,” said Alex Patterson, facilities supervisor at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

The laboratory report for the exterior window sashes showed a paint sequence of wood substrate, moderate reddish-brown, black, some greens and white.

As it turned out, oldest paint was not necessarily the right paint for the window woodwork.

“History gives us some leeway,” Patterson said. “We decided to go with black.”

The sashes and trim were a semi-gloss black color at the time when the distinctive yellow and black checkerboard roof went on the building, which is “the period of history we’re trying to interpret,” Patterson said.

The $80,900 project included removing or stabilizing old lead paint, which is now recognized as an environmental hazard. Workers inside a plastic barrier scraped away loose and flaking paint.

“When they got down to a solid surface, they put two coats of primer to cover the lead,” Patterson said.

The structure was built in 1918 as part of the U.S. Army’s Vancouver Spruce Mill. Pearson had been used as an Army airfield since 1911.

“At its peak in October 1918, the Vancouver Spruce Mill employed over 3,000 soldiers and cut and shipped 1 million board feet of aircraft spruce each working day,” said Greg Shine, chief ranger and historian at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The spruce was used extensively in construction of early airplanes.

The hangar was moved to its present location in 1924 by the Army Air Service. As a hangar housing several historic aircraft, it represents the site’s role in the golden age of aviation, Shine said.

Unlike the re-created buildings inside the fort’s log stockade, “This is a real historic structure,” Patterson said.

With the U.S. Army due to transfer Vancouver Barracks to the park service, Patterson expects to see more restorations.

“It is a good practice project for the same work we will be doing when we take over the barracks,” he said.

Commentary: Town Council has no clue on how to run Hammonton Municipal Airport (N81), New Jersey.

I read the 9/10 article in the Press of Atlantic City concerning the Hammonton Airport with amazement. The apparent spin put on the facts by both the Mayor and the Airport Administrator was astounding.

The first thing I wonder about is the qualifications of Rock Colasurdo to even hold that position. Simply having a business background does not qualify one to run an airport. Not to mention that his business background has been littered with many questionable decisions over the years, decisions that seemed to indicate an attitude of "do what's best for me and take the consequences later." It would seem that even the Press would have wondered about his appointment since they have had to write several stories about him over the years.

In reading the story it is obvious that each side holds a different version of the truth to be true and it's time that the truth be found out.

Obviously if the Town Administration had appointed a qualified individual from the previous airport commission the Council would have avoided the embarrassment of making a decision and resolution over an issue where they have no legal jurisdiction. Only the FAA has jurisdiction over airspace and yet the Town Solicitor and the Airport Administrator both allowed the Council to take an illegal and embarrassing action that would be swiftly overturned.

And now, in a childish move, the Airport has blocked access to the runways for one of the longest most reliable tenants and sources of income. It is another strong arm tactic that has become typical of the current government. The tenant has been willing and has offered continued payments for gate access while negotiations continue. But the current Administrator has refused to negotiate in good faith and has refused the payments. He states, “Once you accept that, you have a contract." What a farce, that is like saying if you pay a teacher while they work without a new contract and they accept that payment, you have a new contract. Simply not true. The tractor needs to be removed at once and a different negotiator or arbiter capable of completing the negotiations be brought in.
In another statement, Rock Colasurdo says "“There’s just too much traffic coming in. We have gliders and twin-engine planes and two helicopters based there now. At this point, the traffic is just not conducive to people doing aerobatics.” What Rock is really saying is he is not capable of administering the airport and scheduling different activities to use the airport to it's absolute fullest and maximizing it's full potential in income. An airport has many uses and if we are not able to take advantage of all of it's activities, we will never reach it's full potential of providing an income to the Town rather than a drain on the general budget.

As for the statements by Rock and the Mayor about the success of the airport, one only needs to drive by to see the drop in the number of planes using our airport as a base.
The Administrator states we have a Medivac helicopter based here. It is my understanding that it is not based here, we have a facility that fixes these copters but the crew and operation is based at another airport.
And how long are we going to hear about a restaurant being interested in coming to the airport. We have spent possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating this facility and yet no real interest by anyone to open a restaurant there. It has been tried in the past and did not work.

Since the Town Council obviously views the Airport has a distraction rather than a viable entity capable of being a first class facility with great potential for income to the Town, it is time to demand that the current Administrator be replaced and we bring in a person with experience and knowledge to run the airport efficiently and fairly to all. Someone who can allow the airport to be used to it's full potential. Someone who will make our airport an extension of what the Town of Hammonton stands for, a place we can be proud of with high standards and a friendliness that allows anyone to take advantage of what we have to offer. 

There are several capable people who live right here in Hammonton who have been pushed aside by the current administration to make room for political patronage. While it is true that the majority of Hammontonians do not use the airport, it can be a source of income that will not only stop wasting tax dollars, but could actually reduce taxes when it becomes a viable revenue source. Call the Town Council members, send them e-mails, let your voice be heard. We the taxpayers want qualified and experienced people serving our Town and we need to make a change at the Airport to eliminate another embarrassment to the Town of Hammonton.

Single-engine plane lands safely after engine problems reported. Pasadena, Texas.

A private plane made a forced landing in a field behind a Pasadena fire station, officials said Friday.

The pilot of the single-engine AC-11 airplane apparently had problems about 7:30 p.m. near Ellington Airport.

The pilot was forced to set the plane down in a field along the 17200 block of Middlebrook, officials said.

"There were no homes struck and no injuries on the ground. He did a good job," said Vance Mitchell, a Pasadena police spokesman.

There were no reports of injuries from the plane. Mitchell didn't know if the pilot was the only person aboard at the time.

Pasadena police will secure the airplane until federal authorities arrive to conduct an investigation, Mitchell said.

PASADENA, Texas - A plane had to make an emergency landing behind a fire station in Pasadena Friday night.

The single-engine propeller plane ended up in the 17200 block of Middlebrook near Clear Lake City Boulevard, according to the Pasadena Police Department.

No one was injured and no homes were damaged.

Next airport manager meets new jet fuel truck. Alva Regional Airport (KAVK), Oklahoma

NEW MANAGER AND NEW TRUCK -- Outgoing Airport Manager Erik Stewart (left) and his newly-named successor, Tyson Tucker, give the pilot's traditional thumbs up on the new Jet A fuel truck which arrived at noon Monday.
Photo by Jim Stout

When Alva Regional Airport’s new jet fuel truck arrived Monday, it was met by outgoing Airport Manager Erik Stewart and incoming Airport Manager Tyson Tucker.

It was the first public appearance in that capacity for Tucker. Most recently, the Kiowa native has been managing Gambino’s, a restaurant on Oklahoma Boulevard. Before that he was in management at Plane Plastics and he is a pilot himself. A full announcement is planned for Sunday’s Alva Review Courier.

The fuel truck has a 3,000-gallon Jet-A refueler tank on a 1994 Ford F-series chassis with a 5.9 liter Cummins Diesel and an Allison MT-643 automatic transmission. It has 8,549 miles and 8,002.4 hours.

The new 5,000-foot runway allows larger jets to land at Alva’s airport, but if they need fuel, it must come from a truck of this type. The presence of the truck makes the airport an attractive option for cross-country flyers and the airport terminal has been redecorated and a pilot’s lounge has been outfitted with luxury furniture, internet and satellite television to suit the upscale needs of the big-jet set.

Canadian runways to be upgraded at a cost of $400 million

Canada's airport operators are howling after federal aviation officials Friday revealed it will cost them at least $400 million to bring runways up to international safety standards with longer overrun zones.

The move comes six years after an Air France airliner barrelled off a rain-slick Toronto runway and caught fire — and one year after the Transportation Safety Board of Canada warned that runway "excursions" and other landing safety issues pose one of the country's greatest transportation risks.

Transport Canada civil aviation officials informed industry executives meeting in Ottawa Friday the department is committed to a draft regulation requiring mandatory 150-metre, unobstructed emergency stopping zones at each end of many of the country's runways. The move is expected to receive final approval next year.

Canada is one of the few countries that still does not formally comply with the 1999 International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) minimum 150-metre runway "air bag" standard, much less the ICAO's recommended practice of 300-metre "runway end safety areas" or RESAs.

Major Code 3 and 4 runways at Canadian airports currently only require a graded, unobstructed buffer zone or "runway strip" extending 60 metres past the runway's end for last-ditch emergency stopping. The new, draft regulation would extended that safety zone by 90 metres. It would also apply to shorter runways used for instrument approaches.

Only about 50 of the 211 Canadian airports that will fall under the regulation already comply with or exceed the 150-metre RESA, including Ottawa International Airport, which has 300-metre RESAs. The draft regulation will apply to all major runways as well as shorter ones used for instrument landings.

A Transport Canada analysis of runway excursions between 1990 and 2010 found 424 incidents, in 91 per cent of which the planes stopped within 150 metres of the runway ends. Most occurred at smaller airports and involved propeller planes.

A departmental cost-benefit analysis estimates the upgrades will cost about $400 million. As the proposal stands, airports will have five years to complete the work once the regulation goes into force.

Jacqueline Booth, Transport Canada's acting-director of civil aviation standards, told the gathering it is not within the department's safety mandate to fund the improvements, though she has made "sure that my senior management is aware of the financial implications of moving forwards with this."

Airport operators, including representatives from several provincial governments, believe the final costs will likely be much higher and will disproportionately affect smaller airports, especially remote and northern ones, and vowed Friday to file letters of dissent.

"Regulation for which (federal) funding is unavailable is destined to fail and a regulatory initiative destined for failure is not acceptable in our country," Ben Webber, assistant director of programs and standards with the Northwest Territories' department of transportation, told the meeting of the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council.

Installing RESAs at 11 airports in the Northwest Territories will cost an estimated $40 million, he said. "With a population of around 43,000, this would mean an expenditure of almost $1,000 for each man, woman and child in the Northwest Territories."

At airports where topography, development, environmental concerns or other limitations don't allow for expansion, Transport Canada says an acceptable alternative would be installation of arrestor beds, built from crushable material that can quickly decelerate a speeding plane. But they, too, can cost more than $1 million each.

Dozens of arrestor beds have been installed at about 30 U.S. airports, with more planned. The FAA credits the technology with saving at least six flights from disaster, including fully stopping a Boeing 747 that overran a runway at New York's JFK airport during a heavy snowstorm in 2005.

Canada's two major airline pilots' associations support the move.

"The Number 1 cause of aviation fatalities today is runway overruns or underruns," said Capt. Barry Wiszniowski of the Air Canada Pilots Association. "Years ago it was controlled flight into terrain. That was addressed by an investment by the aviation industry into making aviation safer.

"Today, we have another threat that affects air transportation globally, nationally, locally, and yet there seems to be a reluctance to make that investment to improve that safety. It has to be addressed."

There was no RESA on runway 24L at Toronto's Pearson airport when the Air France jet carrying 309 people skidded off the 9,000-foot landing strip in 2005.

A 150-metre open stretch of land beyond the runway's pavement provided a de facto RESA. But the plane travelled about 150 metres beyond that, coming to rest in a ravine and catching fire. The TSB ruled that final bit of rough terrain largely contributed to a dozen people being seriously injured and the plane's destruction.

A similar 1978 crash of an Air Canada DC-9 on a neighbouring runway during takeoff killed two people and seriously injured 47 others. A corner's inquest recommended a 300-metre RESA.

WINAIR's founding fathers honored in St. Barths

George Greaux Sr., one of Winair’s founding fathers, holds up a plaque he was presented by Winair pilot Michael Jeffrey to commemorate the airline’s 50th anniversary.

GUSTAVIA, St Barths – Two of Winair’s founding fathers – Hippolite Lidde and George Greaux Sr. – were honored at a ceremony at the Gustave111 Airport on St. Barthelemy Wednesday for their vision in founding the airline, which is currently marking its 50th anniversary. The two men started the airline in 1961 with financial backing from the late Chester Wathey.

“I commend the founders and their investor for their vision in starting the airline in 1961,” the current’s Managing Director Edwin Hodge said.

Hodge also used Wednesday’s ceremony to cite St. Barth’s singular importance to Winair.

“Winair operates 66, 000 flights annually with an average of 15 flights per day into St. Barths in the slow season and 30 flights daily in the peak of the tourist season. Of the 150, 000 passengers we transport per year, 60, 000 of them go to and from St. Barths,” Hodge said

Later he’d add, “WINAIR and Winarians are proud to have St. Barths as a strategic partner and a key stakeholder over the last 50 years, with us being able to transport so many guests to the destination. Even though the airline is not large we are a serious contender contributing to the economy of St. Barths and the surrounding islands.”

Hodge pledged that the airline will make every effort to improve service to all their destinations – St. Barthelemy included. He also pledged to work on bringing more “high end” tourists so St. Barth’s economy will continue growing.

President of the Collectivite of St. Barthelemy Bruno Magras openly queried “What would have happened to St. Barths without aviation” as he thanked Winair for being an integral part of St. Barth’s history, the island’s development and the fact that they still have a strong tourism product.

“Aviation is a difficult job, because you cannot please everyone. I congratulate you on your achievement and I look forward to continuing our partnership for another 50 years because the opening of St. Barths to the outside world was only possible with the cooperation of Winair,” Magras said.

WINAIR observes its golden anniversary in Nevis

WINAIR celebrated their 50th Anniversary on Wednesday September 21st 2011, and as a result, activities were held on Nevis in observation of the milestone.

A contingent consisting of Managing Director, members of the supervisory board, pilots and journalists journeyed on-board a WINAIR flight to Queen City Nevis for the celebrations. A reception was held at Oualie Beach Resort where guests were treated to a scrumptious lithe lunch and local music.

Director TDC Nevis Ltd Mr. Ernie France opined that the auspicious ceremony marked a significant milestone in the life of Nevis’ most prominent regional airlines. WINAIR was founded in 1961 and today operates 3 De Havillard Twin Otter Aircrafts with daily flights to the islands of Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Barths and Nevis amongst others. According to France 50 years in business is no small feat, “and the Board of Directors, Managements and all who have contributed over the years must be commended. My limited experience in this dynamic industry tells me it is filled with challenges and requires astute management at all times,” he said.

He reminded all of the numerous airlines that have come and gone that WINAIR has demonstrated that amidst the challenges great things can be accomplished. France noted that worthy of commendation was WINAIR’s outstanding safety record. “WINAIR has flown through the region in good times and bad times, through good weather and bad and they have been consistent, sure and safe,” he obsereved.

Also joining WINAIR in celebrating its 50 years anniversary was CEO of Nevis Tourism Authority, Mr. John Hanley who echoed similar sentiments as France. He noted that WINAIR in the face of financial turmoil of the last several years has withstood the test of time. “WINAIR is very important to Nevis and has been for the past 33years. WINAIR has been providing a high level of convenience to our locals and tourists alike, with direct connection to St. Maarten for shopping or for onward connections with over a dozen major airlines servicing North America, Latin America as well as Europe. WINAIR’s service has, for the most part, been reliable and punctual,” he commented.

Hanley commented that the fact that WINAIR flies to some of the smallest and most difficult little airports in the world, it must be highly commended for its impeccable safety record. Hanley challenged the airline as it moves on to another 50 years to do better than it has done before. “I challenge WINAIR to continue to recognize the importance of punctuality and reliability while flying your deserving and discriminating passengers. I challenge you to be better corporate citizens by partnering with social and humanitarian causes in the destinations you serve,” he challenged.

Director of WINAIR Edwin Hodge gave some background information regarding the company. He informed that WINAIR was founded in 1961 by Mr. George Greaux and Fostin Ledee and the late Chester Wathey. “WINAIR safely transports an average of 150,000 passengers per year between four destinations with about 66,000 flights per year. Your WINAIR presently operates one flight daily in and out of Nevis. Sadly this used to be 3 flights consistently but due to economic recession WINAIR was forced to reduce service to what it is today,” he explained.

Of these 150,000 passengers some 30,000 plus he stated are on the Nevis route travelling for shopping, medical to transit or just leisure. “The remaining 60,000 plus passengers are on the St. Barths route.” He assured that WINAIR and its Winairians are happy to have Nevis as one of its key stakeholders during the last 30 years. “We certainly could not have done it without you.”

Some of the future goals of WINAIR he outlined are: to “keep our company safe and cost efficient, to ensure a high return rate to WINAIR and Nevis and Closer cooperation with Liat Airlines to improve airlift into Nevis whilst keeping travel at an affordable cost to the public of Nevis,” he stated.

Also congratulating the airline on its golden anniversary was Premier of Nevis and Minister of Tourism, Hon. Joseph Parry who noted that he was very proud of WINAIR for being a Caribbean airline, “I hope we can get the message to our people that being Caribbean is ok.”

Canada: City of Victoria supports expansion of float-plane dock. Residents' fears over pollution and traffic fail to persuade councillors.

A Harbour Air floatplane comes in to land in the Inner Harbour in Victoria
Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist

The City of Victoria supported the proposal by a group of float-plane companies to expand their dock space in the Inner Harbour, which will likely pave the way for a single marine airport terminal downtown.

After a public hearing on the issue Thursday night, council voted in favour of the proposed realignment that would extend the docks by 25 metres, allowing B.C.'s Harbour Air Seaplanes and Westcoast Air (owned by Harbour Air), and Washington state's Kenmore Air to work out of the same space.

It's part of a $3.5-million project to consolidate the operations of the three airlines into a 3,600-square-foot Victoria Seaplane Terminal, which would accept international and domestic flights. Harbour Air vice-president Randy Wright said the consolidation of the three airlines would improve safety, provide operational efficiencies and better customer service, which would boost the tourism industry and give a boost to the local economy.

The companies needed rezoning approval from the city to allow float planes on the northernmost section of the dock extending into a water lot held by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

Several people from the tourism industry, including representatives from Tourism Victoria, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and several downtown hotels, spoke in favour of the proposal, saying it will help to attract more visitors to Victoria.

Members of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association were the most vocal opponents of the proposal. Marg Gardiner said the extension of float-plane docks in the Inner Harbour will increase plane traffic, which will cause more noise and more pollution.

The association urged the city to delay a decision on the expansion until studies on noise, air pollution, flight traffic and safety can take place. Gardiner said the city was not ensuring a fair and competitive process for use of the prime, publicly-owned real estate. She said the city is charging too little for leasing space and, thus, the public is not receiving fair compensation from the float-plane companies.

An emotionally-charged plea to cap the number of flights was made by James Bay resident Miriam Nelson, who said she suffers from health problems which are aggravated by the air pollution from the float planes.

She disputed claims from float-plane companies that this does not amount to an expansion of their business.

"I'm not against the float planes, but instead of expanding we should be capping the number of flights," Nelson said.

Under the plan, Kenmore will move from the Hyack Air terminal at 1234 Wharf St. on property held by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. The Hyack Air lease expires at the end of this year and does not include an extension.

Pilot missing after plane crashes in Northwest Territories, Canada.

WRIGLEY, N.W.T. — A pilot is missing after his plane crashed near Wrigley, N.W.T., Friday.

The crash happened around 2 p.m. while the plane was travelling from Fort Simpson to a camp in Wrigley.

Air controller Tanya Coates from the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Trenton, Ont., said the Cessna aircraft was found approximately 20 km from the camp in a mountainous area.

Coates said the sole occupant — a male pilot — is still missing. Two helicopters are currently searching for the man.

On Thursday, a Twin Otter float plane crashed in Yellowknife's Old Town area killing the two pilots and injuring seven passengers.

In August, 12 were killed when a Boeing 737 passenger jet crashed near Resolute Bay, N.W.T.

Pilot knows thrill, danger of air races

UNION - Danny Mortensen knows the thrill of flying just 50 feet above the ground at 200 mph.

"It's exciting," he said, "The ground goes by you in a big blur."

The 65-year-old Union resident also knows the danger of racing airplanes in the National Championship AirRaces in Reno, Nev. where a World War II-era airplane crashed into spectators killing 11 people last week.

While flying the air races in 1983, Mortensen slammed into the ground at 200 mph - he walked away with minor injuries thanks to cockpit built especially for racing.

Mortensen said he crashed several times in his 14 years racing at Reno-Stead Airport.

"There are emergencies or maydays out on the racecourse every year," he said.

The pilot in last week's crash, James Leeward, was the 20th pilot to die at the races since it began 47 years ago, but the crash was the first in which a spectator died.

Some witnesses have said it appeared the Leeward tried to steer the plane away from the crowd as it went down.

"It was a good pilot," Mortensen said. "It was a mechanical problem."

On Friday, the National Transportation Safety Board said investigators are looking at evidence that a piece fell off the plane just before the crash. NTSB cites photo and video evidence that a piece of the airframe fell off the aircraft after Leeward completed several laps and made a steep left turn.

Mortensen had met Leeward, a veteran movie stunt pilot, and been in pilot briefings with him when both were competitors in the races.

Mortensen learned to fly in an elective course at the University of Arizona when he was a student there in the 1960s. Years later, while Mortensen lived in California where he worked as an air traffic controller, he stopped to re-fuel his biplane at a small airport high in the Sierra Nevadas.

A race pilot was there working on his plane for the National Championship races. He convinced Mortensen to enter the races.

"I was the last one off the course, I finished last," he said. "But I got hooked and I slowly worked up to faster and faster airplanes."

During the races, planes fly wingtip-to-wingtip as low as 50 feet off the ground following an oval path around pylons. The distances and speeds vary depending on the class of aircraft. The modified military planes can reach speeds of up to 500 mph.

"It's quite exciting. It's a big ego trip," Mortensen said. "Most pilots dream of flying the pylons in Reno."

After he retired from the FAA in 1981, Mortensen moved to Reno to be closer to the races. During the 1983 race, his biplane rolled from wake turbulence from another plane and smashed into the ground.

"I went into the ground at 200 mph and walked away from it," he said. The cockpit of the AMSOIL/Rutan Racer had been designed to withstand 22 Gs.

He flew his last race in 1990 when he won the Gold Trophy in his division. He sold his racing planes and several have since won the races.

"My airplanes have won seven times out at Reno, but I've only been in one," he said.

A job training pilots for an airline brought him to Northern Kentucky in 1996. He also owned a company that prepares pilots for their written tests. Now retired, Mortensen was in Portland, Ore. last Friday and was trying to get a plane ticket to Reno to catch one day of the races.

He learned about the crash online and knew the rest of this year's races would be canceled.

It's still unknown if the races will resume next year. The owner of the Reno-Stead airport has said it will examine the federal investigation of the crash to determine whether further safety requirements can allow the event to continue. The Reno races, which draw 200,000 spectators, are the last big air racing event in the country.

Mortensen said he hopes the races continue, perhaps with some new safety measures such as moving the crowd further from the course.

If the pilots do get to fly at Reno again, Mortensen said he won't be among them.

"I'm retired," he said. "It took me 14 years to win it; it would probably take me 14 years to win it again."

Cessna P210N Pressurized Centurion, Silent H Ltd, N210LE: Accident occurred September 23, 2011 in South Deerfield, Massachusetts 

NTSB Identification: ERA11LA502 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, September 23, 2011 in South Deerfield, MA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/10/2013
Aircraft: CESSNA P210N, registration: N210LE
Injuries: 2 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

According to the pilot, during the initial climb, the airplane experienced a loss of electrical power. The pilot said that he unsuccessfully attempted to restart the alternators by cycling the on/off switches. The airplane was in instrument meteorological conditions, and when he saw a clearing in the clouds, the pilot made a “standard rate” spiral down through it. After exiting the clouds, he found a suitable place to land. On the approach, about 300 feet above ground level, the airplane started to porpoise. The pilot attempted to correct the porpoise, but the nose of the airplane struck the top of a tree before impacting the ground.

Postaccident examination of the airplane’s flight controls did not reveal any mechanical anomalies. The engine examination revealed that incorrect pistons were installed at the time the engine was overhauled about 350 hours before the accident, but this did not play a role in the accident. The airplane was equipped with a dual alternator system. A postaccident interview with the pilot revealed that he attempted to energize the alternator’s field utilizing the pilot operating handbook procedure for a single alternator system. The dual alternator system emergency procedure was a supplement for the pilot operating handbook, and the checklist that was located in the airplane did not contain the normal or emergency procedures that were required for the dual alternator system. The emergency procedure for the dual system stated to depress the ALT RESTART switch, located next to the circuit breaker panel; the pilot stated that he did not know about the ALT RESTART switch. The No. 1 alternator was tested and examined. The No. 1 alternator functioned for 5 minutes during the test before it stopped producing power. It showed signs of excessive heat consistent with overloading when examined internally. The No. 2 alternator was not tested due to accident damage. The internal examination revealed burnt windings.

The onboard engine data monitoring system indicated that the battery voltage decreased rapidly just prior to the loss of electrical power. A postaccident examination of the airplane’s electrical system revealed that the alternator restart battery pack did not contain enough voltage to reenergize the alternator field in the event that an alternator failed. A functional test of the system was required every 25 hours to ensure it worked correctly. The batteries were required as per the Airplane Service Manual to be replaced annually or sooner if the alternators cannot be restarted under a heavy load electrical load. A review of the airplane’s maintenance records revealed that most recent documentation for the alternator restart system batteries change was about 12 years ago.

It is likely that the No. 2 alternator failed at an unknown time, which resulted in the entire electrical system on the airplane feeding off of the No. 1 alternator. The No. 1 alternator subsequently overloaded and failed, and the airplane’s battery was unable to sustain the electrical system demand. If the BEFORE TAKEOFF checklist for a dual alternator equipped airplane had been completed, the pilot could have detected that the airplane’s electrical charging system was not working correctly.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The failure of the electrical system due to an alternator failure during flight in instrument meteorological conditions, and the pilot’s inadequate preflight inspection and failure to use the approved checklist for the dual alternator system. Contributing to the accident was the inadequate maintenance because the alternator restart battery pack was not replaced annually, as required by the airplane service manual.


On September 23, 2011, at 1615, eastern daylight time, a Cessna P210N, N210LE, registered to Silent H LTD and operated by an individual, incurred substantial damage when it impacted trees during a force landing in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. The pilot and passenger received serious injuries. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, personal flight. The flight originated from Barnes Municipal Airport (BAF), Westfield, Massachusetts, and was enroute to Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport (BHB), Bar Harbor, Maine, about 1539.

According to the pilot, he completed a preflight inspection of the airplane with no anomalies noted. After takeoff he raised the landing gear and the gear warning horn remained on continuously. He reported to the controller at the tower that he may be returning to land. He had his passenger look for the gear warning horn circuit breaker, however about two minutes later, the warning horn stopped by itself. The pilot thought the gear horn issue was resolved and elected to continue to his destination of BHB. The air traffic controller gave the pilot further instructions to contact departure control and a frequency change was approved.

Immediately following the frequency change, the navigation systems failed, restarted, and failed again. The cabin fan, instrument lights, and cabin lights failed and the airplane suffered a total electrical system failure. At this point, the pilot believed that the airplane encountered turbulence, heavy rain, and he elected to climb above the weather. He reported the airplane seemed to receive strong gusts of wind upsetting the airplane; at one point, giving an indication of over 2,000 feet per minute descent. The pilot put the gear handle down and the flaps out in order to try to stabilize the airplane, but neither functioned. The pilot arrested the steep descent, elected to descend below cloud level, and make a precautionary landing. He saw a clearing in the clouds and made a “standard rate” spiral down through it. He broke out of the clouds about 2,700 feet mean sea level. He saw an open field and maneuvered for the downwind with the intent to land there. On the approach to the field, about 300 feet above ground level, the airplane porpoised three times; the pilot increased engine power, however, the airplane porpoised again. The nose of the airplane struck the top of a tree, the airplane impacted the ground, and came to rest about 200 feet past the tree.


The pilot held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He was issued a third-class medical certificate on June 24, 2010, with limitation of must wear corrective lenses. He reported 1,452 total hours, of which 985 were in make and model of the accident airplane; 87 of those total hours were in actual instrument conditions.


The pressurized, six place, high wing, serial number P21000825, airplane was manufactured in 1983 and issued a standard airworthiness certificate in the normal category. The airplane incorporated an optional dual alternator electrical system. The airplane was equipped with a Continental Motors TSIO-520-AF3B, 310 horsepower engine with a McCauley controllable pitch propeller. According to airplane’s maintenance records, the most recent annual inspection was performed on August 11, 2011. At the time of the accident the airplane had accumulated 2,985 hours of total time and the engine accumulated 350 since major overhaul.

The airplane was equipped with the following electrical operated equipment: Garmin GMX200 Color Multi-Functional Display (MFD) equipped with Electronic Charts, XM Weather, Traffic Information System (TIS) and XM Radio, a Garmin 530WAAS (Wide Area Application Services) , a Garmin SL30 #2 NAV/COM slim line unit, a Garmin GTX330, S-Mode Transponder, a Garmin Audio Panel GMA340, a Goodrich Avionics System WX-500 Stormscope, 6-Place Stereo Intercom with XM Interface (Weather and Stereo Music), a Garmin GDL69A, XM Weather, a factory weather radar pod Bendix King KN62A DME, an EDM800, 6-cylinder Engineering Monitoring System Shadin Fuel Flow, a HID (High Intensity Discharge) wing tip, nose taxi, and landing lights, a PS Engineering, PAV-80 Audio/Video, DVD/CD/XM Stereos System, 6-place jacks.


The closest official weather observation was at BAF, which was 20 miles north of the accident site. At 1609, the automated weather observing system (AWOS) indicated wind from 130 degrees at 4 knots; visibility, 6 statute miles; light rain and mist; clouds broken 900, broken 1400, overcast 2200; temperature 22 degrees Celsius (C); dew point 20 degrees C; altimeter 30.04 inches of mercury.


The responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector stated that the right wing was damaged and folded aft onto the fuselage and the left wing was bent aft. Flight control continuity was confirmed to all flight controls. The flap setting was checked with the flap actuator and they were positioned with about 20 degrees of flaps extended. The propeller was separated from the engine and the propeller bolts were pulled out of the flange on the crankshaft. The engine remained intact and attached to the fuselage. In addition, the No. 6 cylinder rocker box cover exhibited a puncture hole in it. Further examination revealed that the No. 6 intake valve and valve stem penetrated the cover and the head of the valve was resting on top of the cylinder.


An electronic JPI Engine Data Monitor, 700/800 model, was removed from the airplane and submitted to the NTSB Recorders Laboratory in Washington, DC, for data retrieval. The data revealed that there were no anomalies with the engine. However, the data indicated that the battery voltage decreased rapidly from 21 volts to 10 volts just prior to the end of the data, which coincided with the loss of electrical power.

A postaccident engine run with FAA oversight was conducted at the engine manufacturer facility. The No. 6 cylinder was replaced and the engine was placed in a test cell and operated successfully in the low, intermediate, and high rpm ranges. The No. 6 intake valve guide, intake valve, valve springs, retainer, and valve keys were sent to Continental Motors Engineering Department for metallurgical evaluation. The testing revealed that the valve spring retainer failed in overload. For further information, reference the metallurgical evaluation report in the docket for this accident.

In addition, the engine’s maintenance records revealed the engine was most recently overhauled was on July 21, 2009. During the overhaul, ECI part number 648045 pistons were installed. A review of work order documents revealed that the FAA certificated repair station that performed the work installed six complete AEC631397/TISN71.4ACA cylinder assemblies, of which incorporated AEC 648045 high compression pistons (incorrect pistons). According to ECI service bulletin 99-8-1, page 6, AEC631397/TIST71.4BCA complete cylinder assemblies, utilizing part number 648044 pistons, were to be installed on the engine. The installed pistons produced a high compression ratio, which the engine was not adjusted for.

The number 1 and 2 alternators and number 1 and 2 alternator control units were retained and examined by Cessna Aircraft Company with FAA oversight. Both alternator control units functioned in the areas of regulation, low voltage annunciation, overvoltage trip, and field current overload. The No. 1 alternator was tested and malfunctioned approximately 5 minutes into the dynamic test. The No. 1 alternator was disassembled for further examination, which revealed that the rotor body and slip ring exhibited discoloration. The stator was found with one phase of the windings that had been burned from the copper wire so that coils were shorted together. The brushes were visually examined and found to be in worn but in functional condition. The No. 2 alternator was not dynamically tested due to damage incurred in the accident that prevented rotational operation. The No. 2 alternator was disassembled and had burnt windings in the two phases of the stator. No other anomalies were noted with the No. 2 alternator.

A postaccident examination of the wreckage with FAA oversight of the airplane’s electrical system revealed that the alternator restart battery pack did not contain enough voltage to reenergize the alternator field in the event that an alternator failed. A functional test of the system was required every 25 hours to ensure it worked correctly. The batteries were required to be replaced annually or sooner if the alternators cannot be restarted under a heavy load electrical load. A review of the airplane’s maintenance records revealed that most recent documentation for the alternator restart system batteries change was on December 15, 2000.

A postaccident interview with the pilot revealed that he attempted to regain electrical power by cycling the alternator switches on and off. In addition, he attempted to energize the alternator’s field utilizing the pilot operating handbook procedure for a single alternator system instead of the dual alternator system. The dual alternator system emergency procedure is a supplement for the pilot’s operating handbook (POH). The emergency procedure for the dual system states to depress the ALT RESTART switch. In the interview, the pilot stated that he did not know about the ALT RESTART switch.

For the dual alternator system, the BEFORE TAKEOFF checklist in the POH supplement stated for the pilot to perform a functional check of the system. The checklist that was located in the cockpit did not contain this functional check, nor did it contain the emergency procedures part of the supplement. The complete supplement can be found in the docket for this accident.

A photo of a small plane crash in South Deerfield, taken by Michael Arietta and posted on his Twitter account.

South Deerfield, MA (WSHM) -  A frightening scene for onlookers in South DeerfieldJust after four this afternoon when a two passenger plane came crashing down just a mile down the road from Yankee Candle.

"And it's just low and it's sideways and we're literally looking at the top of the plane," said Michael Arietta of Deerfield, "my first words were that ain't right, that's not right and I knew it was going to crash."

The small plane was on its way to Bar Harbor, Maine from Westfield when it crashed about 50 feet into the woods just steps away from rush hour traffic and homes.

"Two (hundred) or 300 feet away, it would've been much more disastrous it would of hit something," said Arietta.

The single-engine Cessna flew right over Yankee Candle corporate offices and witnesses in the parking lot said they were stunned.

"But this thing was close it was right on top of us. it was too close it was right there, too big," said Arietta.

Emergency personnel and state police rushed to the scene where one person was able to get up and walk away from the accident, the other trapped inside.

"I'm shaken up now because I've had time to think about it because I don't know the status of the person I didn't see come out of the plane. I saw one person outside the plane," said Arietta.

Both of the passengers were taken to Baystate Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

DEERFIELD — Two people were injured Friday afternoon when their small, single-engine plane crashed in wooded area near the Yankee Candle Co.’s main offices off routes 5 and 10, officials said.

The crash, reported at 4:15 p.m., closed routes 5 and 10 in both directions for more than an hour as police and firefighters responded to the scene.

One person was trapped in the wreckage and needed to be freed by the Deerfield fire department.

State police reported the plane’s two occupants were each taken by ambulance to Baystate Medical Center for treatment of injuries described as not life-threatening.

The crash remains under investigation. Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration were expected on scene Friday night.

The single-engine Cessna Centurion was registered out of Wilmington, Del. It had taken off from Barnes Airport in Westfield en route to Bar Harbor, Maine about 30 minutes before the crash was reported, police said.

Michael Arietta of Deerfield was just getting off work at Yankee Candle and was about to leave the parking lot with his 17-year-old son, Domenic, when they saw the plane coming in really low and obviously in trouble.

When he first saw it, it was flying on its side so that Arietta could see the top of the wings.

It flew over Route 10 just a few hundred feet off the ground, and he could make out the pilot trying to control it, he said.

“It was too low and too fast. It went by from right to left about as fast as I can
move my arm,” he said.

He said he lost sight of it before impact, but his son told him it appeared to level off just before it crashed into the trees.

When they made it out to the woods, they found one of the occupants was out of the plane and walking around. Another person was trapped inside, he said.

The crash scene was in a thickly wooded area on the east side of routes 5 and 10. From the side of the road, the wreckage was barely visible.

Arietta said he thought the trees may have slowed the plane down before it hit the ground.

DEERFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - The FAA reports that two people were aboard a small plane that crashed in South Deerfield on Friday afternoon.

According to a news release from State Police Media Relations, the single-engine plane went down at 4:15 P.M. near the area of Routes 5 and 10. The plane crashed in a wooded area.

Jim Peters of the Federal Aviation Administration told 22News that there were two people on-board the Cessna 210 when it crashed. The plane has a registration number of N210LE, which is registered to Silent H, LTD out of Wilmington, Delaware.

A man and a woman were on-board the plane at the time of the crash, they became trapped after the plane, and rescue workers had to get them out. Both passengers were taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. State Police told 22News that both were conscious and alert at the time ambulances arrived, and they are expected to recover from their injuries.

According to the flight tracking website Flight Aware , the plane had departed from Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield at 3:39 P.M. and was headed for Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Maine.

Huge Tumbling Satellite Could Fall to Earth Over US Tonight or Saturday, NASA Says

A huge, dead satellite tumbling to Earth is falling slower than expected, and may now plummet down somewhere over the United States tonight or early Saturday, despite forecasts that it would miss North America entirely, NASA officials now say.

The 6 1/2-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was expected to fall to Earth sometime this afternoon (Sept. 23), but changes in the school bus-size satellite's motion may push it to early Saturday, according to NASA's latest observations of the spacecraft.

"The satellite's orientation or configuration apparently has changed, and that is now slowing its descent," NASA officials wrote in a status update Friday morning. "There is a low probability any debris that survives re-entry will land in the United States, but the possibility cannot be discounted because of this changing rate of descent."

NASA expects about 26 large pieces of the UARS spacecraft to survive re-entry through Earth's atmosphere and reach the planet's surface. The biggest piece should weigh about 300 pounds. The spacecraft is the largest NASA satellite to fall from space uncontrolled since 1979.

NASA officials have said the the chances that a piece of UARS debris hits and injures one of the nearly 7 million people on the planet are about 1 in 3,200. However, the personal odds of you being struck by UARS satellite debris are actually about 1 in several trillion, NASA officials have said.

As of 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) Friday, the UARS satellite was flying in an orbit of about 100 miles by 105 miles (160 kilometers by 170 km), and dropping. NASA launched the UARS satellite in 1991 to study Earth's ozone layer and upper atmosphere. The satellite was decommissioned in 2005.

"Re-entry is expected late Friday, Sept. 23, or early Saturday, Sept. 24, Eastern Daylight Time," NASA officials wrote. "Solar activity is no longer the major factor in the satellite's rate of descent."

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Baggage cart collides with plane at Philadelphia International Airport (KPHL), Pennsylvania.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - September 23, 2011 -- Officials say a baggage cart disconnected from the tug that was pulling it and crashed into a plane wing at Philadelphia International Airport.

A U.S. Airways spokesman says the accident happened shortly before noon Friday as the Richmond, Va.-bound U.S. Airways Express flight was getting ready to leave the gate. The plane has been taken out of service and none of the 48 passengers and three crew members was hurt.

The spokesman, Todd Lehmacher, says the baggage cart was being pulled in the area when it somehow became disconnected from its tug and struck the plane's left wingtip.

Lehmacher says the passengers were quickly put on another plane and the damaged aircraft was taken out of service.

An airport spokeswoman says no other flights were disrupted.

The scheduled 11:40 a.m. flight eventually took off for Virginia at 12:45 p.m.

Fire at Airlake Airport (KLVN) hangar under investigation. (Minnesota)

A hangar at Airlake Airport in Lakeville suffered damage on Thursday, Sept. 22, after a fire broke out around 4 p.m., according to a report from the city.

The two occupants of the hangar managed to avoid injury and help crews from the Lakeville Fire Department find the source of the fire.

Firefighters extinguished the fire, but the hangar structure suffered damage to the interior and exterior walls. The fire crews remained on the scene until 4:30 p.m. The fire marshal was on the scene until 6:30 this morning. The cause is unknown and the incident is currently under investigation, according to the report.

The fire was extinguished but the hangar suffered damage to the interior and exterior walls. Crews remained on scene until 4:30 p.m. and the Fire Marshal on scene until 6:30 a.m. determining the cause of the fire, which remains under investigation.

The initial response to the fire included three engines, one ladder, one rescue truck, and Allina ambulance. A second alarm was request for Lakeville Station 3 for more firefighters. Crews gained access into the hangar from the service door to find the fire in a wall.

After Deadly Crashes, Air Show Safety Questioned

Sep 23, 2011 by Associated Press

One week after the deadly crash at the Reno Air Races which killed 11 and injured dozens of spectators, some are questioning the safety of air shows, even though air races and air shows are run very differently. (Sept. 23)

How a Small Piece of Metal Caused the Reno Air Race Crash. What Went Wrong at the Reno Air Races - P-51, N79111 Crash - Popular Mechanics.

Today the National Transportation Safety Board released its first report on the Reno Air Race crash that killed P-51 pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 others. We did our own digging, talking to racers and crew members with years of experience at Reno about what went wrong. A small flap’s failure probably caused this deadly crash—but the accident could have been much worse.

By Jeff Wise

A week after the catastrophic crash at the Reno Air Races that killed 11 people and injured dozens more, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today released its preliminary report on the incident. While the report revealed little new information of note, it confirmed the most salient details and laid the groundwork for a longer report that will take approximately a year to complete. Only when that final report is issued will the NTSB make recommendations that may affect future running of the Reno races—or, possibly, cause them to be shut down.

To piece together a fuller picture of what exactly went wrong, PM talked with officials, racers, and race crew personnel. The consensus to emerge is that the disaster was the direct result of the failure of a relatively small piece of metal, the elevator trim tab, that had been implicated in a number of similar incidents in the past. That failure-prone component, combined with a stroke of bad luck, turned a multimillion-dollar racing machine into an unguided missile.

Here’s how, and why, we think the accident unfolded:

The P-51, the plane Jimmy Leeward crashed a week ago, was designed in the early 1940s as a long-range bomber escort and ground-strike aircraft that could cruise for more than a thousand miles at 360 mph. But for air racing, the planes are heavily modified to maintain speeds near 500 mph. At these speeds, the tail generates enormous downward pressure, and as a result, the nose wants to rise. Keeping the nose down would require constant physical exertion by the pilot. So, like any pilot in this situation, Jimmy Leeward would have engaged a flap on the back of one of the plane’s elevators (the horizontal moving surface on the tail). Called the "elevator trim tab," this piece, in effect, reduces the elevator’s angle of attack and thereby reduces the downward pressure.

To steady the P-51 at full racing speed, the trim tab has to deploy outward nearly as far as it can. Pushed out into the high-speed airstream, it’s vulnerable to rapid vibration called flutter. The back-and-forth flexing can quickly cause severe metal fatigue; think of bending a paper clip back and forth until it breaks. Leeward’s plane, the Galloping Ghost, had already completed several laps and was heading for the home pylon in a steep left turn when, the NTSB report says, "witnesses reported and photographic evidence indicates that a piece of the airframe separated." This is the trim tab falling off.

Without it, the Galloping Ghost suddenly lurches into a severe climb. Leeward would have experienced acceleration of at least 10 g’s—enough to knock him unconscious. Back in 1998, a similar accident struck another P-51 at Reno, Voodoo Chile, during an Unlimited race in 1998. Pilot Bob Hannah blacked out during the 10 g ascent. By the time he came to, his plane had climbed to 9000 feet.

Andy Chiavetta, who worked with the pit crew of another Unlimited racer, says that according to telemetry broadcast from the Galloping Ghost to Leeward’s team, the g load was far higher than that. "From what I understand he hit 22.5 g’s, which no pilot can take," Chiavetta says. At that point, the crushing force pulls a pilot down so far that he or she isn’t even visible in the canopy in pictures taken from the ground.

With the plane out of control and the engine still delivering full power, the Galloping Ghost rolls over and dives toward the ground at near maximum speed. The accident happens in the worst possible part of the entire 8-mile course—just before the spectator stand, leaving the aircraft on a collision course with the event’s 7500 spectators.

The NTSB report puts the final result in cold, official language: "The airplane descended in an extremely nose-low attitude and collided with the ground in the box seat area near the center of the grandstand seating area."

However, a couple of lucky breaks kept the death toll from reaching higher. First, the plane hit the edge of the crowd rather than the center. And the impact happened so fast that the fuel didn’t catch fire, which avoided a deadly conflagration. Above all, the plane remained intact, despite the severe g loads.

Had Leeward’s plane come apart, the situation would have been even deadlier. In 1999, another highly modified P-51 called Miss Ashley II, piloted by Gary Levitz, lost its trim tab during an Unlimited race. It pitched violently upward just as Galloping Ghost did. "When it went vertical, the plane broke up," Chiavetta says. "The engine came off, the wings broke, it pretty much shredded the airplane in the air. It was very lucky that this plane didn’t do that, because it would have put a debris field over the crowd"—in essence, a giant shotgun blast of metal and fuel.

Jeff Wise is a contributing editor for Popular Mechanics and the author of Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger. For a daily dose of extreme fear, check out his blog.

Of Tom Whelan, Pilot and Aircraft Builder: Hangar of Dreams at Whelan Farms Airport (CT01), Bethlehem, Connecticut

Tom Whelan with the Bounty Hunter II plane that he built a hangar at his private airport in Bethlehem. 

Tom Whelan working on a reproduction of a classic Mustang.

Tom Whelan is a busy man, even at the age of 66 and several years removed from his career flying corporate jets for a Fortune 500 company.

Considering that he manages a 40-acre property that includes a very active farming operation, one might think Mr. Whelan has precious few hours to do anything but maintain his home and land.

The farm is only part of his life. Whelan Farms Airport, LLC is where he lives out his passion each day.

His property is home to a Federal Aviation Administration-licensed 1,400-foot grass landing strip that is so well manicured it resembles the fairway of a posh private golf club.

There are hangars and outbuildings off to the sides of the runway, and one of those is the “favorite room” where Mr. Whelan enjoys his most beloved hobby, building airplanes from scratch.

On a recent late-summer day, he had just returned from the blue skies that framed this quiet section of Litchfield County. He had taken a hot air balloon flight at dawn, another one of his newest hobbies.

Mr. Whelan showed his visitor several Firefly balloon baskets stored in a garage, one of which he calls the “Rolls Royce” of hot air balloon baskets. He is currently being trained by instructor Mick Murphy of, who also gives rides to wide-eyed customers.

He then took me to his 5,000-square-foot hangar, where he is working on an S-51-T Mustang, a 7/8’s scaled version of the classic World War II fighter plane. At another end of the hangar sits a brilliant yellow and blue plane called Bounty Hunter II that he built over the course of two years.

The Bounty Hunter II is a high performance airplane weighing 2,500 pounds, with a 435 horsepower engine capable of cruising speeds of 250 miles per hour. The interior of Mr. Whelan’s shop is so clean that you could spread a blanket on the floor and enjoy a picnic. Tools and parts are meticulously located in compartments, lockers and cabinets along the side walls.

“The Mustang is a work in progress,” he said, pointing to the shell of the plane made of high-grade aluminum and steel. “It may not look that way, but I’ll have it done next year. The wings need to be attached, the engine installed, the landing gear mounted and the electronics placed in the cockpit, but the majority of the work is complete. I just have to put it together and put the finishing touches on it.”

Mr. Whelan brings these airplanes to life on his own, with an occasional helping hand from a friend or family member.

“I like to work alone. Other people in the process can be distracting. I’ve got hydraulic lifts for larger parts and the engine and occasionally I’ll need a helping hand with something. But I like to do the work myself if possible.”

Mr. Whelan is a fully licensed airframe and powerplant mechanic with no limitations. In his hangar are myriad machines and other equipment he uses to create pieces of a complex puzzle that eventually result in a stunning airplane such as the Bounty Hunter II that can take him and one passenger to Florida in “roughly 5 hours … depending on winds and weather.”

Some of the airplanes begin with a kit that has hundreds of detailed drawings. He uses them to take him through the various stages of construction. He often adapts the original design and upgrades it by making parts by hand to create a sturdier, more efficient and, most importantly, a safer airplane.

“The main goal is always safety,” Mr. Whelan said. “I want my airplanes to have the best upgrades so that the plane will be extremely safe to fly in. That’s why I take such time with things such as the landing gear, making separate pieces of the gear stronger so that there won’t be any problems down the road.”

Mr. Whelan’s wife PJ, and stepdaughter, Chelsea, wholeheartedly endorse his hobby and love of airplanes. He moved to this property in 1978. The land was part of what was known as the Benedict Farm and was a working dairy operation at the turn of the century.

“When I came, I started from square one by clearing the fields and building a log cabin. I also built the shop, barns and hangar and created the grass landing strip. I had to work at it part-time for many years because I was flying for UST, Inc. (a Fortune 500 company based in Greenwich).”

Since retiring from corporate flying, Mr. Whelan has been able to devote even more time to his farm and airport operations.

“I got into airplanes about 45 years ago. I enlisted in the Navy at 17 years old right at the beginning of the Vietnam War. When I got out, I began building and racing drag bikes and muscle cars. Flying was a way to get to the tracks quicker. I wound up going to flight school on the G.I. Bill and later spent some time in Southeast Asia flying. I worked for UST for 30 years, which was phenomenal. We were flying the best jet aircraft and operated all over the world. I was able to meet some fascinating, high profile people and it was a blast. I’m also a FAA licensed flight instructor.”

One of Mr. Whelan’s favorite pastimes is encouraging youngsters to learn about aviation and flying and airplanes.

“We are Chapter 1097 of the Experimental Aircraft Association headquartered in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Our Young Eagles Program helps teach kids about flying and give them rides as our schedule allows,” he said. “We have had some Boy Scouts out here that we have shown the basics of flying and then taken them up for a 15-minute ride. They all loved it.”

Whelan Farms Airport, LLC is a private, restricted facility used by the owner, several friends and occasional visitors who have received prior permission. Anyone wishing to visit must make an appointment with the owner. The airport and farm have an elaborate security system to safeguard it at all times.

The owner has competed in a number of national Air Shows, winning several prestigious awards. He received the Lindy Award for a Champion Kit-Built RV-4 at the Oshkosh Air Show in 1993, and he later received the Wright Brothers Award in 1995 at the United States Air and Trade Show in Dayton, Ohio, for the original Bounty Hunter. Mr. Whelan has toned down his visits to air shows in recent years, preferring to spend his time making and maintaining planes, flying from his airport and tending to his farm and home.

“I began building and restoring airplanes about 40 years ago,” he said as he stood by the Mustang that gleams with a silvery glow. “I spend most of my winters out here. The best time to work is in the evenings. The summers are pretty busy, with taking care of the property and farm, but I do get out and work on the planes from time to time.”

Asked what the biggest reward of his hobby is, Mr. Whelan said, “It’s that first flight after completing an airplane project. That is such a great feeling.”

After years of hard work, detailing every move with documentation and photographs, reading countless drawings and sketches and fine tuning every little detail, Tom Whelan is flushed with pride and the thrill of flight when he hops into his newest creation and rolls it onto the runway. Like other men have for hundreds of years, his dreams reside not in his favorite room, that 100-by-70-foot hangar where his airplanes come to life, but rather in pushing the throttle forward and lifting off into the sky to free himself from the bonds of the earth.