Sunday, September 25, 2011

Papua New Guinea: Wamena Airport Badly Damaged by Fire.

A large fire at the only airport in Wamena, central Papua province, has caused major damage, a report said on Monday.

State news agency Antara reported the blaze began at 2:30 a.m. on Monday morning, causing damage to a number of facilities, including the baggage area and ticketing windows.

Local police said an electrical short circuit was suspected to have triggered the fire though the cause remained under investigation.

The airport is the major transportation hub for Papua’s central highlands, the scene of ongoing conflict between Indonesian security forces and members of the indigenous population.

Antara did not say if flights had been affected.

Taking iPads into battle

Phones and other smart devices are being tested across all branches of the military. Seeing an opportunity, software firms and defense contractors are developing apps that will enable soldiers to pass along intelligence, view reconnaissance images or even pilot small drones by remote control.

Marine Capt. Jim Carlson uses an iPad while sitting in his Super Cobra attack helicopter at Camp Pendleton. The use of this and other smart devices is raising cyber-security concerns among military strategists.
(Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times / September 26, 2011)

As a Cobra attack helicopter pilot, Marine Capt. Jim "Hottie" Carlson was running support missions above Afghanistan last summer when it occurred to him that it was taking far too long to find where U.S. troops were under attack.

"Do you have any idea how long it takes to find the right map, unfold it, and find where you're going? It's agonizing," he said.

Frustrated that he had to flip through dozens of maps stuffed inside his chopper, Carlson, 31, loaded the documents onto his personal iPad, enabling him to zoom in, zoom out and quickly move from one map to another.

Carlson's brainstorm shortened the time it took to pinpoint a location from "three minutes to about 30 seconds," he recalled recently, and it soon helped change the way the military is thinking about warfare. The Marines now have more than 30 iPads in cockpits across their fleet of helicopters and fighter jets.

For soldiers in the 21st century, iPads, iPhones, Androids and other smart devices could eventually be as common on the battlefield as helmets, canteens and rifles.

These devices are being tested across all branches of the military. Seeing an opportunity, software companies and defense contractors are developing mobile applications that will enable soldiers to pass along intelligence, view reconnaissance images or even pilot small drones by remote control.

This high-tech hand-held revolution, of course, opens the military up to the same problems that everybody else with a smart device faces — security threats and concerns about dropped service. There are concerns among military strategists about passing military secrets on a device that can easily be hacked.

Read more:

Directorate General of Civil Aviation gets tough with airlines over air safety norms

NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has read out the riot act to airlines to comply fully with all safety-related issues and asked them to cover the deficiencies in a time-bound manner.

Airlines have been directed to complete all pending probes into incidents that have been delayed for very long periods of times due to non-receipt of reports on spare parts from aircraft manufacturers. They have also been asked to have proper safety departments and get the regulatory nod for such sections and their heads from the DGCA at the earliest. When contacted, DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan said: "Our stand is of zero tolerance as far as air safety goes. All the laid down procedures and requirements have to be met and their compliance is being checked on a regular basis. Failure to do so would invite strict action. Everyone - airlines and airport operators - have to work together to ensure full safety for air travel."

The DGCA has come down heavily on airlines for either not having proper flight safety manuals or approved chiefs of safety. "Both AI and AI Express do not have an approved safety manual or chief and deputy chief of safety sections. Jet has submitted its safety manual to us. The AI top brass led by its new CMD Rohit Nandan is scheduled to meet this and some other safety-related issues with DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan on Monday," said sources.

Airlines probe incidents through their permanent investigation boards (PIB). Any probe requires feedback on the parts that are feared to have malfunctioned and caused the problem from aircraft manufacturers.

But very often, the big plane makers don't bother giving such reports and hence these probes, and corrective follow up action to be taken on their basis, gets delayed.

Pilots need special skills to land: experts. Buddha Air Beech 1900D, 9N-AEK, Flight U4-103. Kathmandu, Nepal.

The Tribhuvan airport, the only international airport in Kathmandu, has one of the most difficult runways in terms of terrain, and any deviation from the specifically provided procedures would definitely lead to a dangerous situation, say aviation experts.

The airfield is surrounded by huge hills and any pilot who has to fly to Kathmandu from India needs to take special training under an experienced pilot who has familiarity with the airport in the Nepalese capital.

"If procedures are properly followed, then Kathmandu airport is one airfield where the instrument approach system is very good," said aviation expert and retired pilot A. Ranganathan, who noted that it was too early to comment on the Kathmandu accident.

"Even though reported visibility was 6 km, due to rain and low cloud, the pilot might have thought that he has seen the runway, while it might have just been an illusion," he said.

Noting that there were three air crashes in Nepal in the past year, Mr Ranganathan reiterated that the airfield has good approach system but the pilots should follow procedures properly.

Nepal: 22 crashes in 19 years: What went wrong?

KATHMANDU, Sept 26: Two hundred and one persons have lost their lives in Nepal in 22 domestic plane accidents, including Sunday´s Buddha Air crash, since the country adopted Liberal Aviation Policy in 1992 to pave way for the emergence of private sector in domestic air transport.

Eighteen of the planes in the 22 accidents over the intervening 19 years were operated by private sectors.

There were no fatalities in seven of the accidents but the rest have resulted in loss of human lives and invariably the aircraft. 

So what makes air travel highly risky in Nepal?

Probe committees formed for investigations into the crashes have almost always attributed the crashes to error by pilots. International aviation website had published a report after the Tara Air crash in December, 2010 claiming that most air crashes in Nepal occurred when pilots in command violated civil aviation rules and regulations besides flying under adverse weather conditions.

The report, quoting Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) officials, claimed that pilots would enter clouds even while flying under Visual Flying Rules (VFR) which is applied only under a clear sky that allows the pilot to see where the aircraft is headed. But aviation expert Medani Prasad Sharma opined that the accusation while technically true is not fair on pilots.

“Considering our terrain and the hilly airports-- that are usually approached from between two hills -- we have, it would be virtually impossible to fly a plane without entering the clouds every now and then,” Sharma, who is a former Director General of CAAN, argued.

Hardly any probe committee has blamed mechanical failure for the accidents but Sharma, who has himself led many probe committees, has a different take on the issue. “The investigators have to solely rely on Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) since most of the small planes like Twin Otter don´t have Flight Data Recorder (FDR) that keeps record of the mechanical functioning of the plane,” Sharma said. “All the technical glitches may not be known to the investigators due to lack of FDR as we also don´t usually opt for expensive tests of engines and other parts for lack of funds,” Sharma explained.

Senior pilot Prafulla Vaidya concedes that the pilots have to ultimately take the responsibility for the plane that is under their control but reminded that the difficult terrain and fickle weather conditions should also be considered before questioning the efficiency of a pilot who has at least six-seven years of experience in flying.

Sharma, who was also the coordinator of the High Level Task Force on Compliance Status of Safety Recommendations by the Past Accident Investigation Commissions, said the Ministry of Civil Aviation has not paid heed to the recommendations for formulating new laws to govern aviation. “Airlines and CAAN have implemented around 75 per cent of the recommendations and are in process of implementing another 20 per cent leaving around five per cent recommendations unattended,” Sharma said referring to the taskforce´s report that was submitted over two months ago.

Though the final responsibility of a crash is on the pilot, Sharma claims that contributing factors like lack of aviation infrastructure, difficult terrain and fickle weather conditions makes life difficult for pilots. “CAAN has to depend on the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, which doesn´t even have mechanism for weather forecasts in all our airports. In many hilly airports the planes have to be given visual clearance for flights,” Sharma explained.

Air Accidents in Nepal in Past 22 Years
Date / Type / Operator / Fatality

* Sep 25, 2011 / Beechcraft 1900D / Buddha Air / 19
* Dec 15, 2010 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 310 / Tara Air / 22
* Aug 24, 2010 / Dornier 228-101 / Agni Air / 14
* April 19, 2010 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / NAC / 0
* Oct 8, 2008 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / Yeti Airlines / 18
* July 3, 2006 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / Yeti Airlines / 0
* June 21, 2006 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / Yeti Airlines / 9
* June 30, 2005 / Dornier 228-201 / Gorkha Airlines / 0
* May 25, 2004 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / Yeti Airlines / 3
* Aug 22, 2002 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / Shangri-La Air / 18
* Jauly 17, 2002 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / Skyline Airways / 4
* July 27, 2000 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / NAC / 25
* Dec 25, 1999 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / Skyline Airways / 10
* Sept 5, 1999 / British Aerospace BAe-748-501 / Necon Air / 15
* Jan 18, 1999 / Cessna 208 Caravan I / Necon Air / 5
* Aug 21, 1998 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / Lumbini Airways / 18
* Nov 6, 1997 / Avro 748-106 Srs 1 A / Necon Air / 0
* April 25, 1996 / British Aerospace BAe-748-352 / NAC / 0
* Jan 17, 1995 / DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 / NAC / 2
* Nov 8, 1993 / Harbin Yunshuji Y-12-II / Nepal Airways / 0
* July 31, 1993 / Dornier 228-101 / Everest Air / 19
* Sept 26, 1992 / Harbin Yunshuji Y-12-II / Nepal Airways / 0

Published on 2011-09-26 08:19:09

Air Force One lands at Boeing Airfield. Seattle, Washington.

Air Force One touches down at Boeing airfield in Seattle, Washington on Sunday, September 25, 2011.

Mandala Airlines aims to fly as soon as acquisition is finally closed

New stakeholders of troubled carrier Mandala Airlines expect the restructured airline to fly “soon” after the acquisition transaction with Singapore’s budget airline Tiger Airways and Indonesian strategic investment firm Saratoga Group was finally closed on Saturday.

Saratoga Capital Investment manager Devin Wirawan said Mandala would be back in the air 90 days after the acquisition and that Mandala was now carrying out the final restructuring phase: securing an air operator certificate (AOC) from the Transportation Ministry.

“I have no details about the application process with the ministry. To my knowledge, the application has not been sent yet. However, talks are taking place,” Devin said.

Devin said that the new stakeholders had not decided whether to continue using the brand name “Mandala”, which has been popular in the country, or change it to “Tiger”.

“We have not yet discussed the details,” Devin told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

He said that the restructured airlines would serve domestic and international routes within a five-hour flying radius.

He declined to specifically mention the routes or whether the airline would serve Mandala’s previous international routes linking Jakarta with Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.

Before it ceased operations, Mandala used Airbus A320 after switching from Boeing 737-400 in early 2009 and retiring its much older Boeing 737-200 in early 2008.

“The routes will depend on the number of aircraft. Mandala used to have many aircraft. However, we certainly will operate profitable routes,” Devin said, adding that the airline would operate at least five aircraft as required by Transportation Ministerial Regulation No. 25/2008.

The regulation stipulates that an airline had to have at least have two airplanes and lease three others.

Debt problems, as high as Rp 2.45 trillion (US$286.65 million), ceased Mandala’s operation earlier this year. The debt problems arose because of the high cost of leasing aircraft. Eleven leased planes had been returned.

“Mandala executives concluded conditional sales and purchase agreements and other legal and commercial documents with the Saratoga Group as the financial investor and Tiger Airways as the strategic investor on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011,” the airline said in a press statement on Saturday.

Saratoga is now the majority shareholder of Mandala with 51 percent stake, followed by Tiger’s 33 percent ownership, while the remaining 16 percent is owned by the airline’s existing shareholders and concurrent creditors through a debt-to-equity swap mechanism.

“We are happy to have concluded the deal for this transaction and expect Mandala to be operating in the future soon. We will work closely with our business partners to realize that goal,” Tiger Chin Yau Seng said in the statement.

Sandiaga Uno, who is among the founders of Saratoga Group, and Mandala president director Diono Nurjadin expressed the same view, expecting Mandala “to be back in the air as soon as possible”.

Mandala’s new operation will be based on Tiger’s business plan and will use Airbus A320 aircraft to offer low-fare travel to international and domestic destinations within a five-hour flying radius, Mandala said in the statement.

Nigerian College of Aviation Technology is the largest aviation training institution in Africa- Capt. Adebayo Araba

Having successfully repositioned the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, for greater efficiency since his appointment in 2007, the Rector/Chief Executive of the institution, Capt. Adebayo Araba, has assured the aviation sector and Nigerians in general that he is ready to make the school the number one training institution in Africa. In this interview with Jimoh Babatunde, Araba speaks on his achievements, challenges, prospects and other raging issues affecting the country’s aviation industry. Excerpts: 

Can you let the readers into your background in the aviation industry before your appointment as the Rector of the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology?

I graduated from this College in 1976 and I was under Federal Government scholarship. So, I had to work for this same College as an instructor. Then in 1980, I was transferred to Nigeria Airways and I was commissioned in the Nigeria Airways as a Senior Flight Officer on F-28. So, I was in the Nigeria Airways from 1980 to 2004 when the airline was shutdown.

I had the opportunity of flying the slim body, the medium jet and the wide body, which I had command rating in all of them; that is the B737 and the 301 and when the place was shutdown, I was briefly in the industry as an instructor before being appointed back to this College as a rector in 2007.

What are your major achievements since 2007 till date in the College?

What we have on ground here today has never been achieved since the inception of this College in terms of infrastructure and equipment. I can tell you that this College is the largest aviation training institution in Africa.

Is it larger than that of South Africa?

Yes, it is. We comprised of five schools here; the flying school, the AME School, ATE School and we have the ATSCOM School. Hardly can you get any school even in the world with all these schools under the same umbrella. You will discover that in South Africa, they have so many flying schools and if you quantify what is obtainable in each school, you will discover that when you fuse all of them together they can’t still compare with this College, material-wise.

In the Nigeria aviation industry, we have so many challenges from each agency to the other, what are the major challenges facing NCAT?

You see, in a training institution like this, there is no quick fix and gradually, we’ve gone beyond where the college left on about 20 years ago. We’ve gone beyond that in the sense that so many years back, they were not even able to achieve their objectives and clearly we’ve gone beyond that in material training. I don’t want you to lose the focus. Really, the primary objective of this college is to train manpower for this industry and for so many years before I got in here, nothing like that was been done in this college. I will not like to address why it wasn’t been done because I wasn’t here then, but now, we are up to our mission and our vision is quite credible now.

Recently, Kwara State Government established an aviation college in its state; don’t you think this will affect the patronage NCAT presently enjoys as a reputable training institution in Nigeria?

I don’t think so, you see, this college is synonymous with quality. Quality in the sense that we take the best out of the lot, out of the interest groups and if Kwara is going to do likewise, so be it, but as it is today, we can not even accommodate all the competent people that want to fly into this college in the sense that this college is a Federal Government institution and we have quota and our responsibility is to ensure that is fulfilled because it is part of the Federal Government mission too. You see, the quota we are doing is a credible quota.

Credible in the sense that we advertise that we are looking for students and students from the 36 states would apply and they are invited for interview and at the end of the day, we select best from each state and you will agree with me that nothing can be better than that. That is why each course in the school is a course load of 36 meaning from each state and that person is the best candidate for that state. Not that the rest can not fly, but we can not just accommodate because we have some courses here that must be in-house by law.

For instance the AME School; the engineering school, the students must be accommodated in the college like the flying school. They must be accommodated in the school, like the ATSCOM school, they must be accommodated. So, we are really limited by the number of students we can take at any given time due to a lot of logistics. Even having the accommodation, we are still restricted by law because the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority is maintaining the safety oversight of this college. So, we have maximum number of students we can take at any given time.

At present, what is the total number of students we have in the school now?

I think we should have very close to 600 students. What is the management doing to create more awareness about the school activities especially to millions of Nigerians who are not aware of its activities and are interested in enrolling into the school?

I will say this to you; I will disagree with you on this. This college, we spend a lot on publicities. The best way to tell all Nigerians that you are having this product is to go the Nigerian Television Authority, which has the full coverage of the whole country and we do this regularly on air. I don’t think there is anything better than that and that is why this college is open to the literates only and not the illiterates. And I believe if you are literate, you must have heard it in the news and it is there.

And for those people, who are really interested in joining us, we have a website and definitely, people are waiting to give you spontaneous reaction to any question that you ask.

Before you assumed the position of leadership in this institution, NCAT did not graduate students for many years, but not quite long, the school has started dishing out students into the aviation industry as at when due, how did you achieve this feat?

It’s a long story; you see, you will agree with me that if you put somebody who is knowledgeable about doing things in charge of something, definitely, there would be progress, but if it is the other way round, definitely a lot of sycophants will not allow him or her to work. If you look at my background, I was a student and later an instructor in this college and now, I’m a chief executive. Do you think there is anybody in this college that can tell me anything about this institution?

It’s totally impossible because I have basis for comparison. Whatever I need to do in this college, I have basis for comparison. I can say when I was here as a student, it was being done this way, let me improve on it. When I was here as an instructor, it was being done this way, so, let me improve on it. I can collate all those things and I just forge ahead.

Let me tell you this, before I was even appointed to this college in 2007, I was the chairman of manpower development committee that Federal Government set up between 2005 and 2006. I was in this college; I accessed everything they have. I gave a lot of open items to government that ‘look, for this college to continue to operate, these and these are things you’ve got to do,’ all the open items. Now, as God will have it, Government brought me back as chief executive, I just dusted the papers and brought them out and that is exactly what we are going through, all the open items that we identified in 2006, we are closing them and that is why there is progress in the college.

Talking about open items, which of the open items are yet to be closed since you came onboard?

You see, there was no priority at all in maintenance and it wasn’t deliberate, it was due to lack of knowledge. So, I had to close that. When I came in here, I met only one aero plane on the line, they had about 25 in storage; they had no plan of either fixing them or bringing them back in line. They did not even see reason why they must be brought on line to start with. And secondly, bringing them on line then, they had no enough competent pilot on ground to even be instructors in this place.

I brought the aero planes out, I had to go back into the industry to bring back some of the old instructors to this college that they should all come back to savage the college together and I have some of them here and blended them with some of the instructors on ground and that is the more reason why some of the instructors we met on ground, we are still training them. The training is continuous because the way we are going with the college now, some of them don’t even have what it takes to even continue doing the job they’ve been employed to do.

So, there is massive training going on with the instructors now because we want them to acquire better experience and better certificate for us to be able to get to where we are going because there are lots of demands in the industry now for Multi-crew Concept (MCC) training. Apart from the instructors that came from outside to join them, none of them in here can do the training, but now, they’ve started the orientation for them to be indoctrinated into the MCC programme and that is the more reason why I’m in agreement with Arik Air now.

I have about 10 of them in Britain now courtesy of the sponsorship of the Government through the college. I have this relationship with Arik whereby by the time they finish with the training, they will go into the industry, they would fly with Arik for a while and come back here for them to really appreciate what multi-crew concept is all about because you can not teach them multi-crew here, it comes by responsibilities. By the time they are back here, definitely, they will be better materials.

Just recently, some aviation professionals agitated for appointment of professional as the next aviation minister, you are an aviator in the industry, do you agree with this position? My candid opinion is that any intelligent person can be minister of anything. Ok, let’s go back to the immediate erstwhile minister of aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, she was never in aviation industry and for the little time she spent, this industry recorded tremendous progress. Even in this college, she single-handedly supported the progress of this college or is it the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria that we are going to be talking about? You can imagine the transformation that is going on in FAAN now. Is it NCAA that we are going to be talking about?

It was when she came; I’m not saying she was the architect of the certification we got from the United States Federal Aviation Administration, but she supported it despite the fact that she knew nothing about aviation. If you call her today, you will not believe what that lady is going to tell you about aviation.

The same thing about Mr. Babatunde Omotoba, but if you put a professional that fails to listen, we will be back to square one. You are not very knowledgeable about this thing and you put people who are very knowledgeable, you are bound to listen on the way to go and if you are in any doubt, you have every right to ask anybody. You understand. All we need is just an intelligent person, but there are some disciplines that you are always better to put someone who is very knowledgeable about that discipline in charge.

For instance, when we talk about the Attorney General of the Federation, you need somebody who is a lawyer. Not that you can not put anybody else there, but if you get somebody who is a lawyer, is much better. It’s vice-versa.

We have cases where professionals have been there and they ran into problems and we’ve had cases whereby professionals were not there they recorded progress. So, it depends on the way you look at it. I would rather abstain from saying a professional must be here or a professional must not be there, but I strongly believe that whosoever that is there and he has lots of professionals working under the person, definitely there will be progress, but if you put someone who is not knowledgeable there and he appoints people who are not knowledgeable manning the industry, then, it becomes a problem.

Just like every major government agency, funding has always been the main challenge, you are the helmsman in this institution; how much of funding or investment do you think NCAT really need to compete with its counterparts either in the continent or around the world? To be very honest with you, what we are having on ground now, are good enough to compete with any other institution in the world.

How much do you have on ground?

If you say how much, there are some things you can not really quantify, possibly you should have asked ‘what and what do you have on ground to have given you that impression?’ Now, let’s say flying school, what do we need in flying school to get it going? You need the equipment and the materials. When you talk about the equipment, you need the simulator, the airplanes and others.

Do we really have good number of people to man all those things and the answer is yes. Like I told you, what we are having in this college today, even if you bring a nonentity here, what I’m having on ground today can not collapse in the next two years, by the person not even doing anything at all. So, whatever I have on ground now, is good enough to get the college going for the next two years, but I’m trying to go beyond that; that is the next two years because it is possible I might not be here tomorrow, but I can tell you with what we have here today and a nonentity in charge, things we have here can not collapse in the next two years.

The quality will still be there. In another month or two, we are expecting more new equipment in this college; we are expecting brand new simulators again. We are expecting two more simulators and my target really is to have a 737 NG Level D simulator in this college. By the time we have that one here, how many flying schools in the world with that equipment on ground? Very few except those affiliated with the airlines. The simulator is for the training of pilots and it will cost us about $10m or thereabout for one.

That is equipment whereby you don’t even need an aero plane to fly for you to have the certificate.; you don’t need an aero plane for you to get the endorsement and that is what everybody is doing in Nigeria today, that is the Level D aspect of it, it is the zero hour endorsement. Whatever you can do in that simulator is what you can do on the airplane. So, all the training and checkout would be done in that simulator. By the time you are done in that simulator, you have your license. That is what is obtainable now anywhere in the world.

With the simulator, it takes how many months for you to be licensed?

It depends on the training programme. There was this information we gathered that Capt. Adebayo Araba recently suspended a pilot who said he was not in the good frame of mind to fly without pay and it took the intervention of some professional bodies in the industry for the suspension to be reversed to suspension with pay and not quite long after that, a report said you called the Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren to seize the license of the pilot, which was promptly done, what is really the true picture on this issue?

Anyway, if you are an aviator, you will agree with me that what you’ve said, they don’t add on. They don’t add on in the sense that what’s my relationship with Dr. Demuren that I will call him to seize somebody’s license unless Demuren is not straight upright then he would do that. It’s just like Demuren also telling me to put a particular student on ground unless I’m not an upright person that I would comply with that.

I will tell you what happened. You see, part of the problems we are having in this place is night facilities. We don’t have night facilities in Zaria and that one is creating a lot of fund drain to the college. Any time we want to do night training, it is either we move to Kano or Kaduna where they have runway light and navigational equipment. So, this particular course, they were due for night training. And let me say this to you, when it comes to safety, we are second to none in the world. We have that discipline and we promote it and we don’t even give a waiver for that discipline.

Anytime a course is due for night, both the instructors and the students, we don’t occupy them during the day, never even when I was a student in this college, it was like that. Once you are starting a night operation, even a day before the night operations, we normally put everybody down just to be sure they’ve gotten adequate rest.

So, they went to Kaduna, I wasn’t there, I was having a meeting in Lagos with all the other heads of parastatals. They were in Kaduna two days earlier and the instructors too went for their own refresher training a day after we got into Kaduna and they were supposed to start flying with students two days after. The students reported and the instructors reported, we got the briefing and somewhere along the line, one of the instructors went to meet the students onboard the aero plane that they should continue with the pre-flight and that he would catch up with them later.

China: Sky's the limit for owners of private jets

Entrepreneurs who made their fortune by producing ordinary items for everyday life are becoming more flamboyant in how they spend their wealth.

Swish clothes, flashy houses and luxury cars are not enough, it seems, and the rich are now snapping up yachts, racing motorcycles and helicopters.

"We need the thrill to take our minds off the tedious routine of business life," said Guan Hongsheng, 44, founder of a company that makes clothes, hats, shoes and construction supplies for export to the US and Europe.

Like many other tycoons in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, Guan has a keen nose for a business opportunity. Along with his colleagues, Guan set up the Wenzhou Lucheng Hailukong Club in 2008 to "introduce a healthy and challenging lifestyle" to the rich elite of their hometown. The club is dedicated to racing motorcycles, boating and flying helicopters.

Guan owns, among other luxuries, a BMW motorcycle, three helicopters valued at over 5 million yuan ($780,000) and three yachts. His exploits made headlines in the province this year when he and a friend, a club member, were caught flying two Rotorway Exec 162F helicopters for 20 minutes without official approval, something the moneyed class calls black flying. Both were fined 20,000 yuan.

"It was just for fun," Guan said. "Nobody got hurt."

To be cleared to fly, aircraft must be registered with the local office of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, which checks that the model is approved for Chinese airspace. Pilots also have to submit flight plans for every journey, including the time and route.

Late last year a circular issued jointly by the State Council and the Central Military Commission said the country's low-altitude airspace would be partly opened to private flights. This was to promote general aviation - the use of aircraft other than those flown by airlines, the military and police.

Compared with the US, the ratio of general aviation aircraft to population is low.

"Demand is growing rapidly for private air services among wealthy people, but the administrative restriction remains," said Lu Yongguang, an industrial analyst with Central China Securities.

There were 1,010 small aircraft registered on the mainland at the end of last year. The US, the world's largest general aviation market, has more than two-thirds of the world's 330,000 general aircraft.

"The reason for the gap is restricted airspace," Yao said, because restrictions on business jets and pilot training are severe.

But Yao said more low-altitude aviation is likely, especially as more business people have started to buy private jets and a growing number want to learn to fly.

Guan, who flies helicopters, said that the application process must be simplified. "The regulations are outdated and need to be reviewed," he said.

In August the Civil Aviation Administration of China also decreed Alxa and Genhe of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region to be test areas.

In March the head of the administration, Li Jiaxiang, said low-altitude airspace would be opened up gradually in the provinces of Guangdong, Hainan, Heilongjiang and Jilin.

"This is part of China's plan to open part of its low-altitude airspace over the next five to 10 years for commercial aviation," said Yao Jun, an analyst at China Merchants Securities.

"Sooner or later the sky will be open to us private helicopter owners. We fly helicopters because we love doing it; there are no sinister, illegal motives."

At the moment, Guan has a student pilot license that allows him to fly alongside an instructor. There is a one-off lesson fee of 10,000 yuan and a charge of 380 yuan an hour.

"Normally about 10 of us share the fees of hiring an instructor by flying my helicopters for one or two days over the suburbs of Wenzhou. I don't want to make money from my helicopter, but to get young people along for some quality leisure."

The club's motorcycling and motorboat activities add to its inventory of summer fun.

Guan's quest for a life of excitement led him to sports "with high costs and risks". By the time he was 40 he had licenses to drive racing cars, to operate motorboats, to sail yachts, and to fly planes as a student.

Yu Zhiwu, 37, a club member and organizer, followed in Guan's tow and became a fan of motorboats and helicopters too. Such pastimes demand passion, time and a lot of money, he said.

As the moneyed class of Wenzhou grows, the club's membership has grown, too. It now has more than 100 members, including 80 percent from the so-called rich second generation.

There is even an altruistic side to this club for the rich.

"We want to get young people out of unhealthy karaoke bars," Yu said.

Since buying helicopters in the pursuit of pleasure is obviously something few can afford, others look for alternatives that are cheaper but that still give them a buzz.

Chen Bin, 41, a life insurance agent from Wenzhou who likes flying and photography, spent nearly 100,000 yuan so he could take to the skies using a powered parachute.

"Flying and taking photos that way is much safer than flying a helicopter," said Chen, who became interested in aerial photography four years ago.

"If you have engine problems with the parachute you can simply glide to a safe landing."

Obtaining a license to operate the powered parachute took only a month, Chen said, compared with the two years normally required to obtain a helicopter pilot's license.

Chen received much media attention recently after he flew with his powered parachute to take some of the first pictures of the aftermath of the high-speed-train crash near Wenzhou in July that killed 40 people.

He also heads a nongovernmental air rescue team, one of the first amateur rescue groups in China. "We want to expand this leisure hobby of flying to helping people in accidents."

Chen is also the organizer of a paragliding club with over 60 members, and on weekends and during holidays, club members use low-altitude airspace to feel the freedom of the sky. He acknowledges that this flying is done without official approval.

Australia: Aircraft on takeoff, crashed, minor injuries. Bankstown Airport.

A PILOT and a passenger had a lucky escape and were freed uninjured when a light plane crashed in the car park adjacent to Bankstown Airport.

A light plane has crashed into a car park adjacent to Bankstown Airport in Sydney's west.

Two people have walked away after their light plane hit the ground and flipped on to its roof soon after take-off from Bankstown Airport this morning.

A spokeswoman for the airport said the single-engine propeller aircraft crashed just after departing from the airport at 9am after the pilot reported engine failure.

An Ambulance Service of NSW spokeswoman said two people suffered minor injuries.

They were not taken to hospital.

The aircraft was left upside down in a field across the road from the airport's runway, with big chunks of grass and dirt hanging off its nose and undercarriage.

Defence System of Pak Air Force was on red alert at Sunday night due to US planes flights: Hameed Gul

ISLAMABAD (SANA): Former ISI chief lt gen (retd) Hameed Gul has said that the time has come when the government should tell the US clearly that it should not try to take revenge of failure in Afghanistan from Pakistan, adding that Pakistan Air Force had put its defence system on red alert on Sunday night due to US flights on Pak-Afghan border.

General Hameed Gul said that recent incidents clarify that the Pak-US relations cannot remain at that level where were in Musharraf era, adding that every leader of Pakistan says that we don not accept America as our Master, and this is the voice of whole nation.

He said that it is time to say US that we are not like Cambodia, we are a nuclear state. “It is time to say that if you would do this than we response in this way,” he added.

Hameed Gul said that the Haqqani network is a pretext, which has two or three thousand fighters and they are working as subordinate of the Taliban, adding that the main target of America is Pakistan.

He said that Musharraf committed wrong with country, he gave binding hands to United States without any written agreement and are facing the consequences of decisions of Musharraf.

Hameed Gul said that Pakistan Air Force alerted its defence system due to flights of US fighter planes near border on Sunday night and this event was not reported in media. He said that the visit of Chinese vice prime minister scheduled to be start today (Monday) and meeting of Corps commanders is a signal which says that the civil and military leadership has common understanding regarding the threats faced by the country.

If today we have decided to answer America than it is a right decision and should stand with this decision, Gul added.

Qantas flight turns back after bird strike

A bird strike forced a Qantas flight heading from Perth to Melbourne to turn back soon after take-off on Friday.

A Qantas spokeswoman said the Airbus A330, which took off at 11.50am landed "safe and sound" at Perth's domestic airport nearly an hour later.

All passengers were transferred to another flight.

Many were West Coast Eagles fans heading to Melbourne to see their side face Geelong in Saturday's preliminary final.

People under the flight path said they heard the birds hitting the plane.

"It was making a different noise to what other aircraft make and it sounded like a Russian tank," a Parkwood resident told Fairfax Radio.

"I looked up and as I looked up there was a big flame shooting out the back."

Another man, who works in the nearby Welshpool, said it "sounded really weird, like a fluttering sound, and of course all of us looked up and we were just joking it was in trouble".

"But then all of a sudden there was a bit of a boom, flames and a bit of rocking of the aircraft and I thought that wasn't right."

The Qantas spokeswoman denied there were any flames.

DeHavilland Twin Otters in formation. Milk run to several villages in the Western and Sepik and Southern Highlands Provinces of Papua New Guinea.

VIDEO: Labor crew loading bags of concrete mix into a DeHavilland Twin Otter. Western Province of Papua New Guinea.

Kitfox IV (floatplane, built by Tom Bins), N211KF: Accident occurred September 24, 2011 near Lafayette Regional Airport (KLFT), Louisiana

NTSB Identification: CEN11LA415 14 
 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 24, 2011 in Lafayette, LA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 04/20/2012
Aircraft: BINS TOM KITFOX IV, registration: N211KF
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Uninjured.

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

The pilot initiated a 270-degree turn back to the runway after a partial loss of engine power during takeoff. As he was turning back, the engine continued to lose power and the pilot made a forced landing to a grass field. The pilot said that he was in control of the airplane until it was 15 to 20 feet above the ground when it lost lift, landed hard, and flipped over. A postaccident test run of the engine revealed no mechanical anomalies.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s loss of control during a forced landing after a loss of engine power for undetermined reasons during takeoff.

On September 24, 2011, at 0852, N211KF, an experimental Tom Bins Kitfox IV equipped with floats, sustained substantial damage during a forced landing shortly after takeoff from Lafayette Regional Airport (LAF), Lafayette, Louisiana. The private pilot/owner sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight conducted under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

The pilot reported that he departed Lafayette with 15 gallons of fuel on board with the intentions of making just one circuit in the traffic pattern followed by a full-stop landing. Shortly after takeoff, when the airplane reached an altitude of 400 feet, the pilot heard a "swoosh" and a "loud bang" followed by a 50 percent reduction in power. He elected to return back to the runway and initiated a 270 degree turn. As he was turning back, the engine continued to lose power. The pilot was unable to maintain altitude and made a forced landing to a grass field about 1/8 of a mile from the runway. The pilot said he was in “complete control” of the airplane but it "lost lift" when it was 15-20 feet high. The airplane "dropped" on to the ground, landed hard, and flipped over.

Examination of on-site photos revealed that the airplane sustained substantial damage to the firewall and the wing struts. Both floats and one propeller blade were also damaged. The engine was test-run under the supervision of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The engine was started utilizing fuel in the carburetor bowls and then run until the fuel was exhausted. The carburetor bowls were refilled and the engine was re-started. This time engine power was increased and both magnetos were checked. No anomalies were noted with the magnetos or the engine.

At approximately 9 am Sunday morning the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office was alerted to a possible airplane crash just east of the Lafayette Regional Airport, responding deputies found a small airplane inverted in a field near the Oakbourne Country Club off of East Simcoe Street in Lafayette Parish. Deputies also located a 73 year old pilot who was responsive but injured, the man was transported to a local hospital for medical treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Sheriff's deputies confirmed there were no other injuries and have secured the area while Federal Aviation Administration Investigators and National Transportation Saftey Board Investigators respond. The identity of the pilot has not been released at this time.

Kip Judice
Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office
337 236-5876 

A morning plane crash in Lafayette leaves the pilot injured in a small field off Simcoe Street in Lafayette Parish. The plane took off from Lafayette Regional Airport and crashed only a short time later near the Oakbourne Country Club.

The 73-year-old pilot who's identity is being withheld was taken to a local hospital where he is being treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The Lafayette Parish Sheriff's office responded to the initial reports of the crash and secured the site. Since then the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators have been dispatched to look into the circumstances of crash.

Is AMR headed toward bankruptcy?

Is a bankruptcy filing on the horizon for AMR Corp.?

The b-word is starting to swirl around the parent of American Airlines after the question was raised during a recent investor conference and the treasurer didn't completely dismiss the possibility.

The Fort Worth-based carrier has had only two profitable years in the past decade, its stock has slipped to a one-year low near $3 and credit-rating agency Moody's downgraded AMR's outlook to "negative" last week.
Some industry analysts think that the company is running out of cash and that a bankruptcy filing is possible. But others say the airline still has another year or two to turn its finances around.

"They have a mess on their hands when it comes to their operating costs and their financial commitments," said Bob Herbst, an industry consultant who runs "They are just in bad shape right now."

Herbst said AMR needs to reorganize because its current business model is uncompetitive and unsustainable. He puts the odds that American will file for bankruptcy in the next year at higher than 50-50.

The company's assets look adequate. AMR expects to have $4.7 billion in cash and short-term investments at the end of the third quarter.

But it's also facing some large debt payments. AMR said that as of June 30, it had $1.3 billion in debt payments due by the end of 2011 and $1.8 billion due by the end of 2012. The total debt at the end of the second quarter was $11.8 billion. And when $7.9 billion in underfunded pension benefits and $2.5 billion in other long term liabilities are added, the company has over $30 billion in debt and other long-term obligations.

In downgrading its outlook, Moody's said it expects the company's cash position to drop in the medium term as debt payments and investments in new aircraft exceed operating cash flow.

But Maxim Group analyst Ray Neidl said that the cash levels are still strong and that AMR may be able to stem "the cash bleed" by cutting capacity and trimming other nonlabor and nonfuel costs.

"AMR is in no immediate danger of forced bankruptcy or under great pressure from its board of directors so management seems to be in no great rush to solve the challenging problems facing the company," Neidl wrote in a research note to investors. But Neidl was very critical of management for not being innovative in addressing the financial issues andfor hiding from investors.

Nepal released wrong names of victims. Buddha Air Beech 1900D, 9N-AEK, Flight U4-103. Kathmandu.

KATHMANDU: Eight of the 10 Indians who perished in Sunday's air crash in Kathmandu worked with Tiruchirappalli Centre Builders' Association of India. The other two Indians were Pankaj Mehta and Chhaya Mehta, with Pankaj working for the UN in Kathmandu.

Adding to the chaos, Nepal's aviation authorities initially released a wrong set of victims' names, reviving memories of another air crash last year when the victims, mostly Bhutanese pilgrims, were first declared Nepalese. The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu released the correct names of the 10 Indian victims after going through their identification papers.

"They (the Indian tourists) checked into our hotel Saturday evening," said Furpa Sherpa, sales manager at Kathmandu's Grand Hotel. "They had come on a SpiceJet flight from Delhi and were to leave on September 27. We put them through to a local travel agency, Losar Tours and Travels, and they booked a mountain flight for Sunday morning," Sherpa added.

The dead included the three-member Nepalese cabin crew of Captain J B Tamrakar, co-pilot Padma Adhikari and airhostess Asmita Shrestha. The others killed were two American tourists, Andrew Wade and Natalie Neilan, Japan's Uejima Toshinori and two Nepalese, Sarda Karmacharya and Jagjan Karmacharya.

The crash could not have come at a worse time for Nepal that is observing tourism year 2011 with the aim of attracting one million tourists to revive its flagging economy. Indian tourists form the bulk of visitors in Nepal and Nepal Tourism Board has been organising promotional campaigns in Indian metros.

Veterans’ Administration surgeon, University of Miami professor dies in Nepal crash. Buddha Air Beech 1900D, 9N-AEK, Flight U4-103. Kathmandu.

The chief of vascular surgery at Miami’s Veterans’ Administration Hospital and an associate professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine was among 18 people killed early Sunday in a plane crash near Mount Everest.

Jagajan Karmacharya, 45, known as “J.J.” had recently traveled to his native Nepal to introduce her to his ailing mother to his fiancĂ©e, Natalie Neilan, a VA hospital employee.

The couple and Karmacharya’s brother and his wife, were among the passengers returning to Kathmandu from a sightseeing flight of Mount Everest on the Buddha Air Beech aircraft when it crashed.

“This is not just sad for us; it’s a great family tragedy,” said Karmacharya’s boss, Alan Livingstone, chairman of the UM’s Miller School of Medicine on Sunday.

According to investigators, the crash occurred as the aircraft was attempting to land as it returned from the Mount Everest region. Initial reports indicate bad weather and poor visibility may led to the accident. The plane’s black box has been recovered.

Karmacharya’s brother, 36, initially survived the crash but died shortly afterward at the hospital of his injuries.

News of Karmacharya’s death, Livingstone said.

Also killed in the crash was another American tourist , identified as Andrew Wade, a Japanese tourist, 10 nationals and the plane’s captain, co-pilot and air hostess.

“J.J. was a wonderful surgeon, educator and individual,’’ said Livingstone. Karmacharya had been on the medical school staff for three years. “This is a great loss for us.’’

Locals residents, army and armed policemen teamed up to recover the bodies and bring them back to Kathmandu.

For Buddha Air this is the first major mishap in almost 14 years.

Karmacharya’s two other brothers, who live in the U.S., left Sunday for Nepal.

Besides his family in Nepal, Kamacharya, who lived on Hibiscus Island on Miami Beach, is also survived by a teenage son.

Death at end of dream ride. Buddha Air Beech 1900D, 9N-AEK, Flight U4-103. Kathmandu, Nepal.

Pankaj and Chhaya Mehta

Calcutta, Sept. 25: Pankaj and Chhaya Mehta fulfilled their dream of circling the world’s tallest peak today, but their family back home in Calcutta will never get to hear from them how majestic Everest looked from close.

The Mehtas were among the 19 persons killed in the Buddha Air crash this morning. Pankaj, a 58-year-old Unicef doctor based in Kathmandu, and his ophthalmologist wife were to shift to the Philippines next month.

“I spoke to him over the phone yesterday. He told me he and Chhaya would go for a Himalaya darshan today because they might not get another chance to do the trip before leaving for the Philippines,” Pankaj’s father Chandu Lal Mehta, 89, said at their Southern Avenue home.

Chandu Lal and other family members heard of the crash from a relative who saw the news on television. Calls to Kathmandu confirmed that Pankaj and Chhaya had been on the Buddha Air plane.

“Pankaj loved travelling to exotic places and his work offered him many such opportunities. Who would’ve thought it would end like this? We don’t know how to react,” said Ashok Sanghvi, a relative.

Pankaj, the youngest of Chandu Lal’s three sons, was based in Calcutta for around five years until his transfer to Kathmandu in 2008. Chhaya was then attached to a private hospital in the city.

“He was Unicef’s field officer for health in Bengal. His job would often take him to interior areas, including Purulia, where he helped implement the Bengal government’s pulse polio project,” said Kirti Mehta, a cousin.

The couple’s elder son Kayur, 25, is a medical student in Kathmandu. Their younger son Dhaval, 20, is studying environmental science engineering in the US.

Chandu Lal is scheduled to fly to Kathmandu tomorrow with a few relatives. “Dhaval is expected to reach in the next 24 hours,” a family member said.

Pankaj’s two elder brothers, Harsh Vardhan and Hemant, live in Southern Avenue and run the family’s iron and steel supply business. The Unicef official and his wife last visited their family home in July.

“They used to come home frequently and never missed a family event, be it a marriage or anything else. The last visit was to finalise their son Kayur’s marriage with a Bangalore-based girl,” Kirti said.

The wedding was to be held in November.

KOLKATA: Pankaj Mehta did not want to leave Kathmandu without the spectacular view of Mt Everest the Buddha Air special trip offered. It turned out to be his last flight.

Mehta and his wife Chhaya, from Kolkata's Southern Avenue, died in the Beechcraft crash in Nepal's Kot Danda that killed 19 persons on Sunday. Pankaj, who worked with Unicef, was posted in Kathmandu for the last five years. Earlier, he was with Unicef's Kolkata office. He was supposed to take charge of Unicef's Manila office in Philippines on October 3. But before leaving Kathmandu, he did not want lose an opportunity to see the highest mountain peak in the world up close.

The news of the youngest son of the family and his wife left the Mehtas in a state of shock. "He used to come back to his city every year. He was born and brought up here. We are particularly worried about his father, 90-year-old Chandulal Mehta," said Pankaj's cousin Ashvin Shah. Being the youngest, Pankaj and Chhaya were special to us," he added.

Pankaj was extremely excited about the 'Everest Experience' package offered by Buddha Air, said his family. The aircraft picks up tourists from Kathmandu, flies them around the peak and drops them back in Kathmandu. Sunday's ill-fated aircraft was flying back to Kathmandu when it crashed.

Pankaj's eldest son, a doctor based in Kathmandu, broke the news to his uncles Harshvardhan and Hemant around 9.30 am. The couple's younger son, an environmental engineer, is based in New York. The TOI team found the Mehta family making frantic calls to Kathmandu to know whether the victims' bodies could be retrieved though they were not yet sure if they would be brought to Kolkata for cremation.

"Air travel is quite popular in Nepal, which has very limited road network. Many places, particularly in the hilly areas, are accessible only on foot or by air. But we were a bit apprehensive because aviation accidents are relatively common, particularly during the monsoon, when visibility is usually at its worst. But we were assured by the Buddha Air website that describes the Beechcraft as the 'safest plane operating in the domestic sector'. But our worst fears came true," cried another relative.

Experimental amateur-built Hutchinson Velocity RG, N360TV: Accident occurred September 25, 2011 in Sanford, North Carolina

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA504 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, September 25, 2011 in Sanford, NC
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/28/2012
Aircraft: HUTCHINSON KENNETH A VELOCITY RG, registration: N360TV
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Examination of pilot, airplane, and fueling records revealed that the pilot/owner had flown the airplane about 24 total hours over the 7 years since he purchased it. He had last flown the airplane 18 months before the accident, and, on his most recent application for a medical certificate made 10 days before the accident, he reported that he had not flown at all in the preceding 6 months. Two pilots operating in the traffic pattern of the departure airport at the time of the accident described a takeoff roll for the airplane that was twice as long as expected. They observed the airplane at “very low” altitude, in a continuous, descending left turn in the vicinity of the crosswind to downwind legs of the traffic pattern. The airplane then disappeared from view, and a fireball appeared from the woods. Examination of the wreckage revealed no preimpact mechanical anomalies in the flight control system, but it did reveal that the turbocharger waste gate was frozen in a nearly full-open position due to corrosion. This discrepancy resulted in a loss of available boost pressure and significantly reduced the available power. The most recent annual inspection of the airplane was completed 3 years before the accident, and, 5 months before the accident, the pilot requested that the local maintenance facility draft a list of discrepancies that would require correction in order to return the airplane to an airworthy condition. The discrepancy list included the frozen turbocharger waste gate. A review of the pilot's medical records revealed that the pilot was treated for medical and psychological conditions that he failed to report on his most recent medical certificate application. It could not be determined if the medical conditions or medications present at the time of the accident posed a significant hazard to flight safety. If the pilot had flown more recently, it is possible that he may have recognized that the airplane was not performing normally and aborted the takeoff.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot/owner's intentional flight of his airplane with known mechanical discrepancies (frozen turbocharger waste gate), which resulted in a partial loss of engine power and subsequent collision with trees and terrain shortly after takeoff. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s lack of recent experience.


On September 25, 2011, about 1243 eastern daylight time, an experimental amateur-built Hutchinson Velocity RG, N360TV, was substantially damaged during collision with flat, wooded terrain shortly after takeoff from Raleigh Executive Jetport at Sanford-Lee County Airport (TTA), Sanford, North Carolina. The certificated private pilot was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight, which was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to a flight instructor and student pilot, they were performing touch-and-go landings at TTA at the time of the accident. While on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, the instructor heard the accident pilot announce the taxi to the takeoff runway, and during the downwind leg of the subsequent traffic pattern, the accident pilot announced the takeoff roll.

The student noticed the accident airplane at the hold-short line of runway 03 as he landed his airplane, and on the downwind leg of the subsequent traffic pattern, he noticed the airplane did not rotate for takeoff until it reached the 2,000-feet marker on the runway. He thought this was unusual, as his single--engine Cessna was normally off the ground in half that distance.

While on the base leg of the traffic pattern, the student noticed the accident airplane at “very low” altitude, in a continuous, descending left turn in the vicinity of the crosswind to downwind legs of the traffic pattern. He said the airplane then disappeared from view, and a fireball appeared from the woods. The instructor contacted air traffic control on an emergency frequency and advised them of the accident and its location.


According FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine. The pilot's most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on September 15, 2011. On that date, he reported 375 total hours of flight experience, and zero hours of flight experience during the previous six months.

The pilot’s logbook was recovered at the accident site, but was destroyed by fire. No useful information was recovered.


According to FAA records, the airplane's airworthiness certificate was issued in 1996. According to airplane and maintenance records, the airplane had accrued 143.8 total aircraft hours as of May 2011. The most recent annual inspection was completed March 1, 2008, at 131.8 total aircraft hours.

Over the approximate 15-year maintenance history of the airplane, the engine was disassembled 3 times, but none of the disassembly/reassembly repairs qualified as an overhaul. A Lycoming Service Instruction recommended that engines which have not reached the recommended limit for operational hours be overhauled in the 12th year after the last overhaul.

According to fueling records at TTA, the airplane was last fueled on March 21, 2010, at which time the airplane was serviced with 43 gallons of 100LL aviation gasoline. The airport manager stated that he was "reasonably certain" that the airplane had not flown since that date.

In an interview, the airport manager said that the pilot/owner would come out to the airport, tinker with the airplane, start the engine, and taxi the airplane, but that the airplane had not flown "for years."

In May, 2011, the pilot/owner asked the aircraft maintenance facility at TTA to draft a list of discrepancies on the airplane that required correction in order to return the airplane to an airworthy condition for possible sale. Among the discrepancies listed were, “Landing Gear Switch Inop[erative]” and “[Turbocharger] Waste Gate Froze[en].”

According to the Lycoming TO-360 series operator's manual, the engine's rated power output was 180 horsepower at 36.5 inches of mercury manifold pressure. The horsepower output rating with the waste gate open approximately 2/3 of its travel, the position in which it was frozen, could not be determined.


The 1235 weather observation at TTA included a scattered cloud layer at 2,100 feet, a broken ceiling at 2,500 feet, and an overcast ceiling at 3,200 feet with 10 miles visibility. The winds were from 070 degrees at 4 knots, the temperature was 25 degrees C, the dew point was 21 degrees C and the altimeter setting was 30.06 inches of mercury.


The wreckage was examined by NTSB at the accident site, on September 26, 2011. The wreckage path was on flat, wooded terrain, about 210 feet long, and oriented 180 degrees magnetic. It was measured from the first tree strike, about 40 feet above ground level, to the main wreckage. Several pieces of fiberglass, foam core, and pieces associated with the propeller, rudders, and canard, were scattered along the wreckage path. The main wreckage, which was comprised of the cockpit, cabin area, and engine compartment, were completely destroyed by fire. The main wreckage rested on its right side and faced opposite the direction of travel. All three landing gear were down and locked.

Because of the fire damage, almost all remaining control cables, push-pull tubes, and bellcranks were visible. Control cable continuity was established from the cockpit area to the throttle, mixture, propeller, and turbocharger waste-gate manual control. Flaperon cable and push-pull tube continuity were established from the cockpit to the wing roots.

The composite propeller and spinner were fire-damaged, the outboard half of each propeller blade was separated, and the fractured ends were melted. The starter ring gear was separated from the flywheel, and the starter case was smeared at the bendix.

The engine was examined by NTSB at TTA on September 27, 2011. The engine displayed severe fire and impact damage. The accessory case and oil sump were almost completely melted from the engine, and the crankcase displayed several holes due to impact and fire.

Partial rotation of the crankshaft was achieved at the propeller flange, and movement was noted at all four connecting rods and pistons. Camshaft movement was impinged by impact and fire damage to the engine case, but borescope examination through the crankcase openings showed no abnormal wear or pre-impact mechanical failure of the crankshaft or camshaft.

Examination of the turbocharger waste gate revealed that the waste gate was frozen in a partially opened configuration (about 2/3 open) due to heavy corrosion.


The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, performed the autopsy on the pilot.

Toxicological testing for the pilot was performed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) was detected in the pilot's urine. All other drugs noted were consistent with treatment from emergency medical personnel.

The pilot reported the following medications on his most recent FAA medical application form:

Lisinopril/hydrochlorothiazide (Prinzide®, Zestoretic®) – Lisinopril was a prescription medication that was an angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor. It was used to control high blood pressure.

Hydrochlorothiazide was a prescription diuretic used to treat fluid retention in high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and cirrhosis of the liver.

The following medications were listed in medical records obtained by the Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) from the pilot’s primary care physician:

Niacin supplement
Antihistamines (unidentified)

The following medical conditions were identified in the pilot’s private medical record obtained by the AME from his primary care physician:

Anxiety disorder
Dyslipidemia with low HDL
Allergic rhinitis with seasonal allergies
Pyogenic granuloma of the left thumb

Review of all FAA medical certificates and supporting documentation indicated that the pilot reported a history of high blood pressure and the AME identified no significant issues on physical examination.

Based on available history and physical examinations and private medical records the pilot had a history of anxiety disorder, dyslipidemia (low, low density lipids) and allergic rhinitis with seasonal allergies. These conditions were not reported by the pilot to the FAA. In addition, the pilot was taking niacin to treat his dyslipidemia and an unreported antihistamine, which were also not reported to the FAA. Therefore, these conditions and medications were not evaluated by the AME and it could not be determined if the airman posed a hazard to flight safety.

According to the airport manager, the pilot/owner had mentioned on more than one occasion that he was trying to "get his medical back." However, the review of his records revealed that the pilot's medical certificate was still valid at the time of the accident.

LEE COUNTY (WTVD) -- Authorities are investigating the crash of an experimental plane in Lee County.

The pilot, Kirk Aragon of Apex, was the only person on-board, suffering second- and third-degree burns over 50% of his body, according to Deep River Fire Chief Larry Kelly.

He was airlifted to the UNC Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, where he later died, according to hospital officials.

The plane crashed around 12:30 p.m. in a heavily wooded area at the dead-end of Breezewood Road, near Forest Oaks Road. According to FAA spokesperson Jim Peters, the crash site is one-and-a-half miles north of the Raleigh Executive Jetport, which is located at the Sanford-Lee County Airport.

Authorites say Aragon was trying to land, but it's not clear why he crashed.

Residents near the scene helped move the pilot away from the wreck site.

The FAA says the aircraft is a Velocity RG, which is built using a kit.
LEE COUNTY, N.C. --  The North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill says a pilot whose plane crash in Sanford Sunday afternoon has died.

The Federal Aviation Administration late Sunday afternoon said the plane was registered to Kirk Aragon of Apex. The Jaycee burn center said Sunday night Aragon had died.

Police said the crash was reported about 12:45 p.m. when a neighbor called 911 to say she heard a plane flying low overheard, heard a crash and saw smoke.

The plane crashed into woods at the end of Breezewood Road about a half mile from the jetport.

Witness Leola Carter said, "I heard the plane coming over and then I heard a loud pop."

Carter said she grabbed her cell phone and hurried to the site of the crash where she found the pilot was already out of the plane. "I told him I’m on my way just hang in there," she said. "He was thanking me and saying he wanted to live."

The manager of the jetport, Dan Swanson, told NBC-17 News that the plane was a home-built experimental aircraft called a Velocity. The plane was based at the jetport.

"There were no real signs of distress, there were no May day calls that we heard," Swanson said.

Swanson said the plane was built from a kit.

Chief Larry Kelly of the Deep River Fire Department said the pilot suffered second and third degree burns.

The National Transportation Safety Board is taking over the investigation.