Monday, October 3, 2011

Piper PA-32R-300 Cherokee Lance, N115CL: Accident occurred October 02, 2011 in Peru, West Virginia

NTSB Identification: ERA12FA012
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, October 02, 2011 in Peru, WV
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32R-300, registration: N115CL
Injuries: 3 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.


HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 2, 2011, about 2045 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32-300R, N115CL, was substantially damaged when it impacted the trees and terrain in a mountainous, wooded area near Peru, West Virginia. The airplane departed from Danville Regional Airport (DAN), Danville, Virginia, about 1930 with an intended destination of John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport (JST), Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Night, instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The flight departed Grand Strand Airport (CRE), North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina about 1800 with the pilot and three passengers. After an intended intermediate stop at DAN, one passenger deplaned and the flight continued to its intended destination of JST.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and personal records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land privileges. The pilot had received his private pilot certificate on August 31, 2011 and his most recent pilot logbook entry was dated September 24, 2011. At that time, he had recorded 110.5 total hours of flight experience, including 40.4 total hours in the accident airplane make and model. He had also recorded 5.4 hours of simulated instrument experience, of which all were in a different aircraft make and model than the accident airplane. He had also recorded 7.6 total flight hours of night experience, of which 3.0 of those hours were in the accident airplane with a certificated flight instructor. On September 4, 2011, the accident pilot received an endorsement for "PIC [pilot in command] – Complex airplane" and "PIC – High performance airplane." The pilot did not possess an instrument rating.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

According to aircraft and FAA records, the airplane was issued an airworthiness certificate on July 23, 1977 and was registered to the pilot on August 18, 2011. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was recorded on March 2, 2011 at a recorded total time of 4,541.15 flight hours. It was equipped with a Lycoming IO-540-K1G5D engine, rated at 300 horsepower. The engine's most recent annual inspection was recorded on March 2, 2011 and indicated 734.15 flight hours since major overhaul (SMOH). The most recent entry in the engine maintenance records was on July 7, 2011 and at that time indicated 736.44 flight hours SMOH.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

The 2055 recorded weather observation at Grant County Regional Airport (W99), Petersburg, West Virginia, located approximately 11 miles northwest of the accident location, included calm winds, visibility 10 miles with light drizzle, broken clouds at 3,600 feet and 4,300 feet above ground level (agl) and overcast at 5,000 feet agl, temperature 8 degrees C, dew point 6 degrees C, and barometric altimeter 29.97 inches of mercury.

The National Weather Service (NWS) surface analysis chart for 2000 EDT (0000Z) on October 2, 2011, depicted a low pressure system over southern New York with several troughs of low pressure extending westward and southward from the low. The station models over West Virginia indicated general winds from the west with overcast clouds and scattered rain showers. The NWS radar composite chart for 2045 depicted a large area of echoes extending from New York and Pennsylvania, into West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, and Virginia.

The closest upper air sounding from Sterling, Virginia, located about 74 miles east of the accident site, indicated a moist low-level environment with a relative humidity of 75 percent and greater from the surface to 12,800 feet. The freezing level was identified at 4,132 feet msl and supported icing in clouds and in precipitation to above 20,000 feet.

The NWS area forecast, issued at 1341, expected broken clouds at 5,000 feet msl with tops to 9,000 feet, with overcast clouds at 4,000 feet after 2000. Occasional visibilities of 3 to 5 miles in light rain and mist were expected. The forecast included Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) Sierra for IFR conditions and mountain obscuration along the intended route of flight.

According to Lockheed Martin Flight Service (LMFS) recorded data, the pilot contacted them earlier in the day. A representative from LMFS provided details of a preflight weather briefing. The briefing lasted about 9 minutes, during which time the pilot was notified of the existence of icing and IFR conditions due to precipitation and ceilings and visual flight rules (VFR) flight was not recommended for the planned flight from DNV to JST.

According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, on the day of the accident, sunset occurred at 1858 and moonset was at 2258. The moon was a waxing crescent with 34 percent of the moon's visible disk illuminated.

The 1935 recorded weather observation at DNV included wind from 340 degrees at 4 knots, visibility 10 miles, clear skies, temperature 14 degrees C, dew point 0 degrees C, and barometric altimeter 30.14 inches of mercury. The weather remained similar for several hours after the accident.

The 2054 recorded weather observation at JST, the intended destination, included wind from 310 degrees at 9 knots, visibility 9 miles with light rain, overcast clouds at 400 feet agl, temperature 2 degrees C, dew point 2 degrees C; barometric altimeter 29.89 inches of mercury. From about 1400 until several hours after the accident, the clouds were overcast between 200 and 900 feet agl.

COMMUNICATION

The accident airplane was receiving flight following services from the FAA Air Route Traffic Control Center facility located in Leesburg, Virginia. Recordings of voice and radar tracking data were obtained from that facility.

At 2038:08, the pilot, who had been flying direct JST on a northerly course at 5,500 feet, notified the controller, "we are losing VFR I need a deviation." At 2038:22, he stated "we're gonna try reversing course." The controller asked if the flight was IFR capable and if pilot wanted to file an IFR flight plan. The pilot reported “we are IFR capable”; but when asked if he wanted to file an IFR flight plan, the pilot declined, stating, in part, "I'm not even sure I've got the plates here…" and clarified his intention to return to DAN. At 2039:20, the pilot said that he was going to change frequencies to check the weather.

At 2042:03, the pilot announced that he was back on the controller’s frequency. The controller stated "okay looks like you're going back opposite direction" to which the pilot stated "yeah we're headed back." Asked to clarify his intended destination, the pilot said “I think we’re gonna head back toward Danville…”. The controller identified an alternate airport 10 miles north of the airplane’s position but, at 2042:30, the pilot responded, "yeah I just as soon not do that I can't seem to find my plates I'm getting bounced around pretty good."

Radar data indicated that during the time when the pilot reported to the controller that he was going to be off frequency checking weather, the airplane began a series of erratic maneuvers. About 2040:49, the airplane entered a gradual left turn. Between 2041:13 and 2041:25, the turn tightened and the airplane entered a steep left spiral dive, losing 700 feet in 12 seconds. The airplane briefly disappeared from radar on a westerly heading, but it reappeared at 2141:43, at a higher altitude and flying a southeasterly heading. At 2141:55, the airplane began to make a tight left turn. Shortly after the pilot informed the controller that he was back on the controller’s frequency, the airplane briefly stabilized on a northerly heading at 4,900 feet msl but, at 2142:30, as the pilot made his final transmission, the airplane disappeared from radar for the last time.

Recordings of voice data obtained from the Lockheed Martin Washington Contracted Flight Service Station indicated that the pilot contacted Flight Watch at 2016. During the recorded conversation the weather specialist informed the pilot that an AIRMET for IFR conditions and mountain obscuration still existed along their intended route of flight. The specialist further informed the pilot that the forecast was showing ceilings below 1,000 feet and visibility below 3 miles. The pilot informed the specialist, "do believe we're gonna look at lynchburg uh I'll get back to ya here in just a little bit uh I have to get back on uh flight following here right now." The recorded communication lasted about 6 minutes and no further communication with Flight Watch was located.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The airplane was found inverted in mountainous, wooded terrain. The debris path was about 650 feet in length. The wreckage debris path was oriented on 045 degree magnetic heading and the main wreckage was located about 2,900 feet msl. The engine was found separated from the airplane and was within the vicinity of the main wreckage. A review of Washington Center radar data indicated that the last radar return was at 4,900 feet msl and was 255 degrees and 0.62 miles from the accident location.

Examination of the wreckage indicated that the stabilator was impact separated and the center section of the stabilator was located in a tree approximately 80 feet agl and in the vicinity of the initial tree strike. Sections of the left wing were located along the debris field prior to the main wreckage. The impact crater was 11 feet in length, 53 inches wide, and 22 inches in depth. Inside the impact crater were the inboard section of the left flap, a section of the cockpit instrument panel, and numerous fragments of the left wing. The engine and cockpit area came to rest between a group of three trees. A section of the right wing, including the retracted main landing gear, was located up the hill, approximately 79 feet forward, and to the right of the main wreckage. A fragmented portion of the right wing flap was located up an incline and in front of the main wreckage approximately 107 feet. The flap handle was found in the down position, which correlated with flaps "UP" position. The stabilator trim indicator was not viewable and the landing gear handle was not located.

Fuselage

The fuselage was segmented and the cabin walls were breeched. All windows were separated from their normal positions; were cracked, splintered and segmented. The forward cabin and aft cabin doors were separated and impact damaged. The aft cargo door was separated and impact damaged. All six seats were recovered and noted to be separated from their fuselage floor mountings; all exhibited impact damage and some torsion twisting. Seat restraints were located and all showed impact damage but were found to be connected to their mountings; however, the mountings were separated from the fuselage fragments. The co-pilot's seat restraint was found in the latched position. The seat belts associated with the pilot, co-pilot, and the middle row seat located behind the co-pilot seat exhibited web stretching.

Cockpit

The instrument panel was separated from the forward fuselage area. It was void of instrumentation and the instrumentation was located throughout the debris field and did not yield any useable information. The rudder pedals and flight control "T"-bar were impact-damaged and control cable continuity was traced to all the cable breaks from the associated attach points. The breaks had the appearance of broomstrawing at the fracture points. The aileron chain was found impact separated from the "T" bar.

Loose papers, around the accident location, were collected and examined. The only navigational publications found in the vicinity of the wreckage were three unopened/folded Sectional Aeronautical Charts, along with several Airport/Facility Directories. No IFR charts were found.

Empennage

The vertical fin was found separated from the fuselage and exhibited impact damage along the leading edge. The side skins were concave due to impact damage. The rudder was attached to the vertical fin at its hinge points and control cable continuity was traced to the tensile overload breaks. The stops were in place and exhibited some impact damage. The rudder balance weight was not located in or around the debris field. The rudder position at impact could not be determined.

The stabilator was separated from its mounting. Both tip sections were separated and both tip weights were attached. The main stabilator assembly was located in an approximate 100-foot-tall tree near the initial impact location. The primary balance weight was located in the ground impact debris field approximately 60 feet forward of the main impact area. Control cable sections were attached and exhibited tensile overload separations. The left and right tip sections were located on the ground forward of the tree impact area. The trim drum was not located.

Left Wing

The left wing was separated and fragmented. The fuel tank was impact-damaged, breeched and void of fuel. The fuel cap remained secure and in place. The flap was partially attached and fragmented. The aileron was fragmented and partially attached. The aileron balance weight was not located. An aftermarket gap seal kit was installed on the flap and aileron. The primary balance cable was segmented and exhibited evidence of tensile overload. Control continuity was partially established. The fiberglass wing tip was separated and fragmented. The left main landing gear was separated and the strut tube was separated from its housing and located within the debris field.

Right Wing

The right wing was impact separated and fragmented. The wing root section was located forward of the main impact area in the debris field. It contained the right main landing gear and appeared to be in the "UP" position. The outboard wing section was fragmented from impact and the fuel tank was fragmented and void of fuel. The fuel cap was impact separated and was located approximately 40 feet from the fuel tank. The wing tip was separated and fragmented. The aileron was separated and the aileron control sector was located within the debris field. It contained segments of the primary and balance cables attached and they exhibited tensile overload signatures. The right flap was impact damaged, partially attached and fragmented. The control rod was broken and the flap and aileron had aftermarket gap seals installed. The fiberglass wing tip was separated, impact damaged, and fragmented.

The doors were all impacted separated and indicated the doors were in the close and locked positions.

Engine

The engine was impacted separated from the engine mounts. The No.s 2, 4, and 6 cylinders exhibited impact damage, with the No.2 cylinder most extensively damaged. The top spark plugs were removed by investigators, with the exception of the No. 2 cylinder plug, which was missing. The No.s 4 and 6 cylinder spark plugs remained attached in the cylinder plug hole but were fractured slightly above their threads. Cylinder No.s 1, 3, and 5 remained attached and all spark plugs appeared gray in color with no unusual wear indicated. The engine sump pump exhibited impact damage and oil was present.

The engine power controls were visible; however, they were severely bent and were difficult to move due to impact damage and their pre-impact positions could not be accurately determined. Engine control continuity was not established on the mixture, propeller, and throttle due to impact damage. The alternator and starter were separated and found forward of the debris field.

The fuel injector and engine-driven fuel pump contained a blue fluid and had a smell similar to 100 LL aviation fuel. The engine-driven fuel pump was disassembled by investigators and the diaphragm was intact and no damage was noted. The fuel pump armature operated smoothly. The fuel servo was impacted separated, the throttle valve was jammed with dirt, and the fuel servo diaphragm was impact damaged. The electric-driven fuel pump was located within the debris field; impact damaged, and was devoid of fuel. The fuel selector valve was found in the right fuel tank position.

Oil was present on the engine oil dipstick and the oil filter was removed from the rear of the engine by investigators. It contained oil and was free of debris or contaminants.

The right oil cooler was impact damaged but remained attached to the engine. The left oil cooler was impact separated and damaged.

The magneto was impacted separated, located 68 feet forward of the main wreckage. When rotated by hand, spark was observed. The magneto switch was located in the impact crater and was found in the "BOTH" position; however, the key was sheared and part of it remained inside the key hole.

The vacuum pump remained attached to the engine. Disassembly revealed that the vanes were cracked with rotational scoring noted inside the case.

The turn coordinator, HSI [horizontal situational indicator], and directional gyro were all examined and exhibited extensive impact damage. The gyro was removed and exhibited rotational scoring on the inside of the gyro case.

Propeller

The Hartzell 3-bladed propeller was impacted separated and located up the incline and 40 feet in front of the main wreckage. The blades were partially imbedded in the ground and all three blades remained attached to the hub. Two of the propeller blades exhibited extensive tip curling on the outboard approximate one-third of their length, and S-bending. One propeller blade remained relatively straight, embedded in the ground and exhibited chordwise scratches. The propeller governor was impacted separated, fractured, and remained within the vicinity of the engine.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the pilot on October 8, 2011, by State of West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Charleston, West Virginia. The autopsy findings included "catastrophic injuries" and the report listed those injuries. The report also stated that alcohol was detected in muscle tissue and was ascribed to postmortem formation.

Forensic toxicology was performed on specimens from the pilot by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The toxicology reported stated 15 (mg/dL, mg/hg) ethanol detected in muscle, and no drugs were detected in the muscle.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Federal Aviation Regulation 91.155, Basic VFR Weather Minimums, states, "no person may operate an aircraft under VFR when the flight visibility is less, or at a distance from clouds that is less, that that prescribed for the corresponding altitude and class of airspace." Class C, D, E, and G distance from cloud minimums were listed as: 500 feet below, 1,000 feet above, and 2,000 feet horizontal.

According to the FAA website, Sectional Aeronautical Charts are "the primary navigational reference medium used by the VFR pilot community…is designed for visual navigation of slow to medium speed aircraft…"

Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3A)

The Airplane Flying Handbook (AFH), Chapter 16 "Emergency Procedures" contained a section entitled "Inadvertent VFR Flight into IMC" which stated in part " A VFR pilot is in IMC conditions anytime he or she is unable to maintain airplane attitude control by reference to the natural horizon, regardless of the circumstances or the prevailing weather conditions…Accident statistics show that the pilot who has not been trained in attitude instrument flying, or one whose instrument skills have eroded, will lose control of the airplane in about 10 minutes once forced to rely solely on instrument reference." The stated purpose of the AFH was "to provide guidance on practical emergency measures to maintain airplane control for a limited period of time in the event a VFR pilot encounters IMC conditions…to help the VFR pilot keep the airplane under adequate control until suitable visual reference s are regained." The AFH further stated that the first steps necessary for a VFR pilot to survive an encounter with IMC included "recognition and acceptance of the seriousness of the situation and the need for immediate remedial action, maintaining control of the airplane, and obtaining the appropriate assistance." It stated that "Attempts to control the airplane partially by reference to flight instruments while searching outside the cockpit for visual confirmation of the information provided by those instruments will result in inadequate airplane control," which "may be followed by spatial disorientation and complete control loss."

The handbook additionally stated, "The pilot must believe what the flight instruments show about the airplane's attitude regardless of what the natural senses tell. The vestibular sense (motion sensing by the inner ear) can and will confuse the pilot. Because of inertia, the sensory areas of the inner ear cannot detect slight changes in airplane attitude, nor can they accurately send the attitude changes which occur at a uniform rate over a period of time. On the other hand, false sensations are often generated, leading the pilot to believe the attitude of the airplane has changed when, in fact, it has not. These false sensations result in the pilot experiencing spatial disorientations."

FAA Advisory Circular 60-4A

"The attitude of an aircraft is generally determined by reference to the natural horizon or other visual reference with the surface. If neither horizon nor surface references exist, the attitude of an aircraft must be determined by artificial means from the flight instruments. Sight, supported by other senses, allows the pilot to maintain orientation. However, during periods of low visibility, the supporting senses sometimes conflict with what is seen. When this happens, a pilot is particularly vulnerable to disorientation. The degree of orientation may vary considerably with particularly vulnerable to disorientation. The degree of orientation may vary considerably with individual pilots. Spatial disorientation to a pilot means simply the inability to tell which is 'up'…Surface references and the natural horizon may at times become obscured, although visibility may be above flight rule minimums. Lack of natural horizon or such reference is common on overwater flights, at night, and especially at night in extremely sparsely populated areas, or in low visibility conditions… The disoriented pilot may place the aircraft in a dangerous attitude…therefore, the use of flight instruments is essential to maintain proper attitude when encountering any of the elements which may result in spatial disorientation."

FAA Advisory Circular 61-134

"According to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and FAA data, one of the leading causes of GA [general aviation] accidents is continue VFR flight into IMC… the importance of complete weather information, understanding, the significance of the weather information, and being able to correlate the pilot's skills and training, aircraft capabilities and operating environment with an accurate forecast cannot be emphasized enough… VFR pilots in reduced visual conditions may develop spatial disorientation and lose control, possibly going into a graveyard spiral…"

Private Pilot Certification

According to the FAA, the minimum requirement for private pilot certification was in part "… 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments, including straight and level flight, constant airspeed climbs and descents, turns to a heading, recovery from unusual attitudes, radio communications, and the use of navigation systems/facilities and radar services appropriate to instrument flight…"



NTSB Identification: ERA12FA012 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, October 02, 2011 in Moorefield, WV
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32R-300, registration: N115CL
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 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.


On October 2, 2011, about 2055 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-32R-300, N115CL, was substantially damaged when it impacted the trees, terrain, and came to rest inverted in a heavily wooded area near Moorefield, West Virginia. The airplane had departed from the Danville Regional Airport (DAN), Danville, Virginia, about 1930 and had an intended destination of John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport (JST), Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed. The non instrument rated private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The flight originated at Grand Strand Airport (CRE), North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina earlier in the day, landed at DAN, where one passenger disembarked, departed, and was in cruise flight at the time of the accident. According to records obtained from CRE, the airplane had received 47.0 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel.

The airplane impacted several trees that were approximately 120 feet in height, the stabilator was impact separated and remained in a tree and the airplane came to rest, inverted, at the base of several trees in the mountainous, wooded area. Both wings were separated and fragmented. The engine and cockpit came to rest approximately 15 feet from the initial ground impact point. Ground scaring at the initial impact point was measured at 11 feet in length at an elevation of 2,980 feet above mean sea level. An inboard section of the left flap, part of the cockpit instrument panel as well as numerous fragments of the left wing was located inside the impact crater. A section of the right wing including the retracted main landing gear was located up the hill, forward and to the right, and approximately 79 feet from the main wreckage. A fragmented portion of the right wing flap was located up the incline in front of the main wreckage approximately 107 feet. The debris field from the initial tree strike was approximately 650 feet in length and on a heading of 045 degrees. Several trees along the debris field had impact marks.


Photo Credits: Addison House Restaurant/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

LEECHBURG (KDKA) — A full 24 hours after a small single-engine plane was reported missing en route from West Virginia to Johnstown, there’s still no sign of the aircraft.

Onboard the aircraft was 52-year-old Chas Armitage, Jr., the president of Uncle Charley’s Sausage Company in Parks Township.

Another passenger on the Piper airplane was Laura Stettmier, co-owner of the Addison House Restaurant and Lounge in Leechburg.

The plane was being piloted by 52-year old Michael Garrone, of Allegheny Township.

Charles Armitage, Sr., told KDKA-TV his son and the others were returning from a weekend vacation in North Carolina when it vanished.

News of the missing plane has hit the Leechburg area like a thunderbolt.

“I was shocked,” Alexander Micklow, owner of the Leechburg Pharmacy, told KDKA-TV.

“Laura was in here on Friday, I believe it was – maybe Thursday, getting ready for the trip, telling me how excited she was, her friend has a private plane and they’re flying to North Carolina or some beach somewhere.”

Leechburg pizza shop owner Keith Fetterman said he too was stunned by the news, adding that he just spoke with Chas last week about buying sausage for his pizza shop.

“We are all praying for them,” Fetterman said.



MEXICO: Officers allegedly run airport cocaine ring, report says

REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Federal police officers are alleged to run a cocaine-trafficking ring through Mexico City's international airport involving Aeromexico flight attendants and private security personnel, a newspaper report said Monday.

The operation has come to be informally known as the "galley cartel," in reference to passenger jet kitchens.
The allegation suggests there is active smuggling at the airport with the help of corrupt security officials and airline employees. In August, an Aeromexico copilot was arrested in Madrid on suspicion of attempting to smuggle 92 pounds of cocaine in his luggage.  

According to the news report, two former screeners working for a private security company at the airport told investigators that federal police officers paid them $1,000 each time they permitted luggage with cocaine or cash to pass through inspection at Terminal 2 of Benito Juarez International Airport. The allegation was reported by the daily Reforma, citing a federal investigation not yet made public (link in Spanish).

The two suspects were questioned in connection with a December incident in which three Aeromexico flight attendants were arrested at Madrid's Barajas airport after arriving with about 300 pounds of cocaine in their luggage. The screeners, Jaime Cesar Valencia and Josafat Jonathan Guzman, said they let drugs flow through Terminal 2 in the service of "high-level officials, diplomats and celebrities," Reforma reported, without elaborating.

Investigators have reportedly been referring to the cocaine smuggling operation at Terminal 2 as the "galley cartel" or the White Angels. Late Monday, no response to the report emerged from the federal police, the federal prosecutor's office, Aeromexico or the airport (links in Spanish).

Reforma reported that no arrests have been made in connection to the allegations. Prosecutors produced a composite sketch of a federal police officer who may have paid for cocaine smuggling at the airport, but have no identification, the newspaper said.

-- Daniel Hernandez


Emirates Prods Boeing to Keep ‘Head of Steam’ on 777 Jet Upgrade

Emirates, the world’s biggest international airline, is pushing Boeing Co. to press ahead with improvements to its 777, even as it finishes work on an all-new airplane and updated designs for two others.

The planemaker needs to come up with a better version of the 777 in the next six months and have it ready to enter service by 2018, Emirates President Tim Clark said yesterday in an interview after two days of meetings with Boeing executives in Seattle.

He said he’s been asking for two years for a twin-aisle plane that will fly more passengers and freight greater distances and be at least 10 percent cheaper to operate. Those savings would be similar to what Boeing is promising for two smaller planes: the 787, entering service this month more than three years late and billions of dollars over budget, and the 737 MAX, scheduled to be ready in 2017.

“There’s no doubt that the 787 program has caused them a certain amount of angst,” Clark said. “They have other programs that need to be pushed out -- the 747-8, and they’ve got the 737 MAX now. So I was concerned that the head of steam we’d been building might be lost as they deal with the problems with the other ones.”

Boeing has introduced about one new jet a decade since the 1960s, along with derivatives of the models that improve performance. New planes cost more than $10 billion to develop, even without the problems the 787 has faced with its new composite materials and manufacturing processes.

Double Duty

Boeing has said it won’t run two major programs concurrently again, after swallowing billions of dollars in charges for costs related to the 787 Dreamliner and the 747-8, the newest jumbo jet that’s two years behind schedule.

“We’re confident that when the market demands it, we’ll develop and deliver a plane that provides what our customers require,” said Karen Crabtree, a Boeing spokeswoman. “We feel comfortable with where we are in that process.”

With about a hundred 777s in the Emirates fleet now and about 40 still to come, Clark is the model’s biggest airline customer. Retirements are scheduled to start in 2017, so he’s asking for a replacement that can carry 60 tons of payload from Los Angeles to Dubai. That’s about 7,230 nautical miles (8,320 statute miles or 13,390 kilometers), and would have to factor in hot weather that hurts performance.

The 365-seat 777-300ER, which entered service in 2004, can carry roughly that same payload up to about 6,800 nautical miles, according to Boeing. The 777-200LR, the world’s longest- range commercial airliner, can fly farther. It’s smaller, though, so it carries fewer passengers and less cargo.

More Work Needed

Clark said he may be asking for too much, and he’s not yet sure whether Boeing will be able to meet his deadlines, because there’s more work to be done on propulsion and some other items.

“But I’m sure it’ll be a very attractive option,” he said. “They are making good progress.”

Boeing brought Lars Andersen, the former 777 program manager, out of retirement last year to lead a team to work on a replacement plane. Clark said Andersen knows what customers like Emirates need and will build on technological advances made with the 787 Dreamliner, the world’s first airliner made out of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic composites.

“The composites, the wing, the flight deck, the question of the whole materials structure, aerodynamics of the airplane, a lot of that will be learned from the 787 and will cross over,” Clark said. The same will be true for Airbus SAS and its planned rival to the Dreamliner, the A350, he said.

“The eye came off the ball, because they had to get the 787 out, and that really did drain them psychologically and materially,” Clark said of Boeing management. As for the 777, “Believe me, they’re working it, they’ve got a full team of people working on this airplane, and they’ll be going as fast as they can.”

http://www.bloomberg.com

Chicago, Illinois: Officials Sneak Out of Closed-Door Airline Summit

What went on during Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Monday morning summit with top airline executives?

Emanuel said a system for routing jets was discussed, as was training an educated workforce and creating jobs. But the executives, seen sneaking out of the mayor's office after an hour-long discussion, weren't talking. They left through an inner office door to slip away from the media.

When Ward Room spotted one exec in the hallway, she refused to comment.

The closed-door meeting was expected to include discussion of the O'Hare expansion project and possible privatization of Midway International Airport. Leaders from Boeing, AAR Corp, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and the Chicago Department of Aviation were in attendance.

Man Pleads Not Guilty For Trying To Smuggle Methamphetamine In Potato Chip Bags At Los Angeles International Airport, California.

Photo credit: Transportation Security Administration

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Compton man pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges, after trying to smuggle methamphetamine inside potato chips bags at Los Angeles International Airport.

Lemuel Giovani Espinosa, 21, was going through security when TSA officers saw something odd in his backpack during the X-ray screening process at the United terminal.

Officers found nearly five pounds of meth concealed inside at least two “T.G.I. Friday’s Potato Skins” bags . . . cheddar and bacon flavor, officials said.

“Drug traffickers are always trying novel ways to conceal their contraband,” said Marlon V. Miller, deputy special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles.

Espinosa was planning to fly to Narita, Japan with the contraband, where he would be paid $6,000.

Homeland Security officials estimate the meth had a street value of more than $200,000 in Japan.

Espinosa was charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com

Joint Strike Fighter makes first landing on US Navy ship. (With Video)

 

The Navy and Marine Corps Team made naval aviation history today as the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) test aircraft BF-2 landed safely on USS Wasp’s (LHD-1) flight deck, the first at-sea vertical landing for the Marine Corps’ F-35 JSF version.

Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Fred Schenk landed BF-2 at 3:12 pm.

“It was exactly like we predicted,” said Schenk. “But that’s because of all the hard work and extensive preparation done by the Wasp and JSF team.”

The first vertical landing is part of the initial ship trials for the F-35B which started Monday and is expected to last two-weeks.

The tests are scheduled to collect data on the aircraft’s ability to perform short take-offs and vertical landings on a ship at sea, as well as determine how the aircraft integrates with the ship’s landing systems, and deck and hangar operations.

This test period, the first of three scheduled at-sea test periods over the course of the development program, will also collect environmental data on the deck through added instrumentation to measure the F-35B’s impact to flight deck operations.

“The first at sea vertical landing is a huge milestone,” said Marine Corps Col. Roger Cordell, military site director for F-35 test and evaluation at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. “We’re still early in this test period, and we expect to learn a lot more, but this is a great step toward delivering the capability to the fleet.”

“Every time an aircraft is first tested at sea we learn a great deal and the data collected from this event will inform us about the further development work necessary to successfully integrate the F-35B on large-deck amphibious ships. By all accounts, we’re off to a great start today,” Venlet said.

The F-35B is the variant of the Joint Strike Fighter for the U.S. Marine Corps, capable of short take-offs and vertical landings for use on amphibious ships or expeditionary airfields to provide air power to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The F-35B will replace Marine AV-8B Harriers and F-18 Hornets and is undergoing test and evaluation at NAS Patuxent River prior to delivery to the fleet.

In addition to being the first ship to successfully land the F-35B, USS Wasp was also the first ship to host the V-22 Osprey during shipboard trials in October 2007.

Temco GC-1B Swift, Lanson C. Ross (rgd. owner & pilot), N3825K: Accident occurred October 02, 2011 in Ewell, Maryland

NTSB Identification: ERA12FA002
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, October 02, 2011 in Ewell, MD
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/13/2012
Aircraft: TEMCO GC-1B, registration: N3825K
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Serious.

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.

The pilot made an uneventful 45-minute cross country flight from his home airport to the destination airport. About 10 minutes into the return flight, the airplane was cruising over water at 2,000 feet mean sea level when it experienced a total loss of engine power. The pilot attempted to glide to an island and performed emergency procedures; however, he did not verify the position of the fuel tank selector. The airplane glided about 2 miles before ditching in the water. The airplane was equipped with main and auxiliary fuel tanks that held 26 and 9 gallons of fuel, respectively, and the engine burned about 9 gallons of fuel per hour; the pilot reported that both tanks were full when he departed from his home airport. The pilot further reported that, if he had accidentally left the fuel selector positioned to the auxiliary fuel tank prior to departing his home airport, he would have had just enough fuel to fly the outbound leg, begin the return leg, and lose engine power where he did. When the airplane was recovered, the fuel selector was found positioned to the auxiliary fuel tank. Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any preimpact mechanical malfunctions. In the pilot’s operating handbook for the airplane, the procedure for an engine failure during flight stated that, for airplanes equipped with an auxiliary fuel tank, the pilot should ascertain that the fuel selector valve is on a tank containing fuel.


The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's improper fuel management in that he did not verify the fuel selector position before beginning the flight or after the power loss, which resulted in a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation and subsequent ditching.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On October 2, 2011, at 1513 eastern daylight time, a Temco GC-1B (Swift), N3825K, operated by a private individual, was substantially damaged during a ditching in the Chesapeake Bay, near Ewell, Maryland. The certificated airline transport pilot received serious injuries and the passenger was fatally injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the planned flight to Washington Executive Airport (W32), Clinton, Maryland. The flight originated from Tangier Island Airport (TGI), Tangier, Virginia, about 1500. 

During a subsequent telephone interview with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, the pilot stated that prior that day, he flew uneventfully from W32 to TGI. During the return flight, the airplane was cruising at 2,000 feet mean seal level to remain below an overcast cloud layer at 2,200 feet. About 10 minutes after departure, while flying over water, the airplane experienced a total loss of engine power. At that time, the pilot was in radio contact with air traffic control, and advised of his emergency. The controller acknowledged the transmission and provided a vector to the nearest land, which was Smith Island, Maryland, about 6 miles east of the airplane. While gliding toward the island, the pilot performed emergency procedures, which included activating the carburetor heat, checking the magnetos, activating the fuel boost pump, and positioning the mixture to rich. The pilot did not mention switching the fuel tank selector position as part of the procedure. He remarked that if he had accidentally left the fuel selector positioned to "Aux," prior to departing W32, he would have had just enough fuel to fly from W32, to TGI, and lose engine power near Smith Island. 

The pilot added that his airplane did not have a good glide ratio, and estimated that he only glided about 2 miles before ditching in the water. Other airplanes and helicopters circled the area about 20 to 30 minutes after ditching; however, the pilot and passenger were wearing dark clothes and were not seen. The pilot and passenger then attempted to swim to Smith Island. The waves were high and the passenger was unable to complete the swim. 

The wreckage was located on October 6, 2011, by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. It was resting in 25 feet of water, about 2 miles west of Smith Island. 

PILOT INFORMATION

The pilot, age 48, held an airline transport pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane multiengine land. He also held a commercial pilot certificate, with a rating for airplane single-engine land. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on December 3, 2009. The pilot reported a total flight experience of 6,800 hours; of which, 130 hours were in single-engine airplanes. Of the 130 hours, 120 hours were in the same make and model as the accident airplane. The pilot had flown the make and model accident airplane 8 hours during the 30-day period preceding the accident. 

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The two-seat, low-wing, retractable-gear tailwheel airplane, serial number 3514, was manufactured in 1948. It was powered by a Continental O-300, 145-horsepower engine, equipped with a fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The airplane's most recent annual inspection was performed on March 25, 2011. At that time, the airframe had accumulated 4,470 total hours of operation and the engine had accumulated 85 hours since overhaul. The airplane flew 35 hours from the time of the last annual inspection, until the accident.

The airplane's fuel selector had three positions; "AUX," "MAIN," and "OFF." The auxiliary fuel tank held 9 gallons of fuel and the main fuel tank held 26 gallons of fuel. 

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

Patuxent River Naval Air Station (NHK), Patuxent River, Maryland, was located about 15 miles northwest of the accident site. The recorded weather at NHK, at 1452, was: wind from 250 degrees at 9 knots; visibility 10 miles in light rain; few clouds at 2,000 feet, broken ceiling at 3,600 feet, overcast ceiling at 4,400 feet; temperature 11 degrees C; dew point 8 degrees C; altimeter 29.88 inches of mercury. 

WRECKAGE INFORMATION

The wreckage was recovered from Chesapeake Bay on November 26, 2011 and examined at a recovery facility. Underwater video recorded just prior to recovery revealed that the fuel selector was found in the "AUX" position. Additionally, the fuel selector was noted in the "AUX" position at the recovery facility. The engine had separated during recovery. The empennage had also separated and was not recovered. Both wings were intact and remained attached to the fuselage. The fuel tanks were breached and contained saltwater. The right aileron was up and the left aileron was down. The left and right flaps were partially extended. Control continuity was confirmed from the yoke to the ailerons. Rudder control continuity was confirmed from the pedals in the cockpit to the cable cuts at the point the empennage was separated. Elevator control continuity could not be confirmed due to lower fuselage impact damage. 

Examination of the engine revealed that the left magneto had separated and the right magneto remained attached. One wooden propeller blade had separated about 1-foot outboard of the propeller hub and the other wooden propeller blade remained attached. The valve covers and sparkplugs were removed for examination. The sparkplug electrodes were intact with no preimpact debris noted. When the propeller was rotated by hand, camshaft, crankshaft, and valvetrain continuity were confirmed. Additionally, thumb compression was attained on all cylinders. 

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

An autopsy was performed on the passenger on October 4, 2011, by the Virginia Department of Health, Office of The Chief Medical Examiner, Norfolk, Virginia. The cause of death was noted as, "drowning; contributing, multiple blunt trauma."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Review of the make and model engine operator's manual revealed that the average fuel burn for the engine was 9.27 gallons-per-hour during cruise flight. 

Review of a pilot operating handbook for the make and model airplane revealed:

"Engine Failure During Flight

If airplane is equipped with auxiliary fuel tank, ascertain that fuel selector valve is on tank containing most fuel…"













Mary Lagerquist, 78, a Sequim resident for the past six years, died shortly after the small private plane in which she was flying plunged into Chesapeake Bay on Sunday, Oct. 2.

Her son, Lanson C, Ross, III, was at the controls. Ross, a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, was able to swim to safety. He was treated and released after spending the night at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, Md. Ross lives in Fort Washington, Md.

The preliminary Maryland State Police investigation indicates Ross flew his mother in his two-seater plane from Hyde Field in Clinton, Md., earlier in the day to Tangier Island. They were returning to Hyde Field when Ross began experiencing problems with the plane. He radioed the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and informed them he would try to reach Smith Island.

Ross told state police he was forced to land the plane in the water and that it sank rapidly.

Ross said his mother was injured in the crash, but they were able to make some progress toward Smith Island. Ross said after about a mile of swimming in rough water with waves three to five feet high, his mother died. Ross was able to reach the island.

Police recovered Lagerquist’s body at about 9 a.m. Monday off the southern point of Smith Island.

Maryland State Police have notified officials with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration and both will investigate the cause of the crash.

A musical talent

Lagerquist’s sister, Lila Stoike, said the two grew up in Mission, Kan.

Stoike, who lives between Sequim and Port Angeles, said her sister revealed a talent for music at a very early age. “When she was 16 she was head of the percussion section for the Kansas City Philharmonic,” she said.

Lagerquist eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and a master’s degree from the Chicago Conservatory of Music.

Lagerquist also spent five successful years touring with a marimba band, including a performance on Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town.”

She married Lanson Ross in 1957. They had two children together. Though they were divorced, the two remained close. Lagerquist and Ross were traveling together by RV when they stopped this week in Maryland to see their son.

Ross still makes his home in Sequim.

Family friend Carmen Rice called Lagerquist “a very sweet, loving woman.”

Stoike said she and her sister recently had signed up for tap lessons. She also said Lagerquist was taking Bible classes at the Dungeness Community Church.

No funeral arrangements had been made by press time. 

Windsor, Ontario: Airport loses more than $200,000 in first half of the year

WINDSOR, Ont. -- Windsor’s city-owned airport suffered a loss of more than $200,000 in the first half of this year — but city officials say that’s to be expected.

“It’s consistent with previous operations,” said Mayor Eddie Francis.

According to a financial statement that council received on Monday, Your Quick Gateway ended the period of January to June with a loss of $212,937.

YQG manager Federica Nazzani said the airport’s budget was in a similar situation at this time in 2010.

“It’s absolutely normal,” Nazzani said. “We have a very seasonal business.”

Nazzani said the airport tends to incur heavier expenses during the winter and this year also dealt with one-time expenses such as the launch of Porter Airlines in Windsor.

The airport’s projected total budget for 2011 predicts it will be about $9,500 in the black by year’s end.

Nazzani said the airport finished 2010 with a loss of about $200,000, but earned money in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

“We’re on track,” she said. “We’re actually doing very well.”

Nazzani said the airport has had cumulative retained earnings of about $300,000 since 2007.

By way of comparison, she said that when the city took over operations from Serco Aviation Services four years ago, the airport had cumulative retained earnings of negative $1.2 million.

According to Francis, the city has already considerably “turned around” the airport’s fortunes.

He pointed to recent developments at the airport and the facility’s strategic value to the area’s future.

“It plays a vital role for this city, this community and this region. It’s an economic driver.”

Francis noted the aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul hangar that’s being built at the airport, and the studies underway on establishing an air cargo hub.

The airport’s master plan is scheduled for discussion at the economic development standing committee on Wednesday.

http://www.windsorstar.com

San Diego Gas & Electric Company may resume helicopter operations on Sunrise Powerlink

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. may resume its helicopter operations on the 119-mile Sunrise Powerlink project, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.

The commission shut down the utility's air operations last month, citing eight separate safety incidents, including six dropped loads and two instances in which the rotors struck objects on the ground.

Consultants for the commission reviewed the helicopter operations and attended training sessions, officials said.

"Based on the SDG&E submittals and actions in response to the CPUC required remedial actions, the CPUC has determined that SDG&E can resume operation on the Sunrise Project upon receipt of this letter," wrote Arocles Aguilar, a lawyer for the commission, in a letter dated Oct. 4 to SDG&E.

Construction on the Sunrise Powerlink began in December, a $1.9 billion electrical line between Imperial and San Diego counties.

http://www.nctimes.com

Abernathy citizens to weigh in on possible airport shutdown. Abernathy Municipal Airport (F83) , Texas.

With the Abernathy Municipal Airport comes history.

"The city of Abernathy got the airport given to them by the U.S. War Department as war surplus back in 1948," Abernathy City Manager Mike Cypert said. "We have been operating a public airport ever since."

The airport is now in need of significant repairs and in jeopardy of seeing its final day.

"We've contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and they're definitely not interested in operating an airport here either," Cypert said. "So there's no federal interest."

Tom Porterfield has a different opinion. He said that Aerocare and other businesses use this airport and said the airport is busier than the city may realize.

"They land airplanes here," Porterfield said. "I work on airplanes so it is a vital part of my business because airplanes come to me a lot of times, and if they shut it down then that's really going to hurt my business."

Ron Lowe, a newbie to the flying community, said he doesn't want to see the airport go.

"It's a nice place to practice and its extremely convenient," Lowe said. "Maybe one day I will own a plane and living right here in Abernathy and having a plane based here would be ideal."

Lucky for Lowe, the city has a plan to hear opinions.

"We're having a public hearing on the 10th of October to look at and try to evaluate continuing operations," Cybert said.

It is no secret that money is a big factor in the decision.

"Can we financially achieve the goal of keeping this airport open?" Cybert said. "And if so, how are we going to change things so we can increase revenue at the airport."

Porterfield said that airports such as this one are one of West Texas's best kept secrets.

"I hope the airport stays open and they realize that this is actually a diamond in the rough," Porterfield said. "They could actually use it to increase their economic developments and stuff. It could bring a lot of business to Abernathy if they'd let it."

With the Texas Department of Transportation estimating runway reconstruction costing nearly $1.7 million, it doesn't look good for the airport, however, the city wants to see what its citizens are willing to do in order to keep planes flying in and out of Abernathy.

http://www.myfoxlubbock.com

Six world airlines suspended service service to Pakistan, National Assembly told

ISLAMABAD - Minister for Defence Ch. Ahmad Mukhtar has informed the National Assembly that almost six international airlines have suspended their operations to Pakistan airports due to security and commercial reasons.

In a written statement, he told the Lower House that British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa of Germany, Singapore Airlines, Swiss Air and Indian Airlines have suspended their operations due to above-mentioned reasons. However, he stated that presently 25 foreign international airlines have filed their landing schedules for destination in Pakistan during the summer 2011 season and for operating their flights regularly.

He further stated that the Civil Aviation Authority has not suffered any losses due to the suspension of flights by the airlines mentioned above, as commencement of operations by any airline or its enhancement/ reduction in number of frequencies being operated is a continuous feature of any airport. It may also be added that during this period NAS Air of Saudi Arabia, Eriterian Airline and KAM Air of Afghanistan have started their operation to/from Pakistan beside Turkish Airline has also increased their flights from 4 to 7 per week.

About the LNG import, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain in a written statement also informed the House that Liquefied Natural Gas was not being imported at present as LNG infrastructure required to receive LNG was not available. However, he added that steps like fast tract LNG import projects through the private sector at their cost and risk without any government guarantee, gas import project such as Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline projects Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India project (TAPI) under development and enhance indigenous gas production were being taken to manage the shortage of natural gas in the country.

To another question regarding any proposal to import gas from Iran, the minister stated that an agreement has been signed between Interstate Gas System Pvt. Limited from Pakistan side and Natural Iranian Gas Company from Iran side for implementation of the project while first gas flow is expected by the end of December 2014.

Similarly, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Moula Baksh Chandio in his written reply told the National Assembly that NAB has arrested 495 accused from March 2006 to March 2011 out of which 198 accused persons have been convicted, except ex-public holders, during the same period while 620 accused except ex-public office holders have so far been released on bail including accused arrested prior to March, 2006.

http://nation.com.pk

PROJECT REPORT: South Jersey Regional Airport (KVAY), Mount Holly, New Jersey.

Title: Improvements to the South Jersey Regional Airport


 South Jersey Regional Airport (KVAY),  Mount Holly, New Jersey.
Photo Credit:  Kathryn

Florida: At last minute, Dania Beach delays vote on runway issue

After decades of fighting a proposed runway, Dania Beach is about to sign a settlement that would give money to homeowners most affected.

Poised to approve a unique settlement to pay off Dania Beach homeowners who live near a parcel of land long-eyed as a prospective runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the Dania Beach Commission instead voted to defer their vote until next Tuesday.

According to the city charter, there must be at least 10 days between votes on land-use issues. To a room packed with residents and camera crews, the city’s attorney recommended the commission wait until next week to make its final vote on the issue since it had just approved accepting the deal on first reading last Tuesday.

Even so, it’s expected the commission will approve the deal, in which homeowners could get financial assistance from Broward County and the Federal Aviation Administration to help sell or soundproof their homes in exchange for not filing a lawsuit. It’s believed to be the first time in the United States homeowners will be given money to help make up for the loss of their property value when a neighboring airport expands.

“The reality is, we are David, we are the little guy,’’ said City Commissioner Walter Duke. “We only have so much leverage. But this is the best deal we have.’’

The settlement will offer homeowners these options:

• 1,700 homeowners can take a payment from Broward County amounting to 20 percent of their home’s value in exchange for signing a release saying they won’t take part in any lawsuit;

• These homeowners can also accept $80,000 to soundproof their homes;

• The homes most affected by sound pollution, approximately 857, can sign up for sales assistance from the FAA. Only 22 homes will be sold each year and homeowners who receive less than the market value will receive the difference, up to 25 percent.

Once the Dania Beach Commission gives the proposal final approval, the deal will need to be signed off by Broward County Commission and the FAA.

Then, those homeowners affected will have up to a year to make their choice from the options.

“I’m not done yet,’’ promised Dania Beach Commissioner Anne Castro. “I’m going to shame them, guilt them into doing what’s right.

After a decades’-long fight, city leaders began considering the pay out deal from the County Commission and the FAA, resigned there was nothing they could do to stop the runway from being built. Late last year, the U.S. District Court of Appeals upheld Broward’s plan to build a new “main’’ runway on the south side of the airport.

“The airport’s going to grow whether we like it or not,’’ said Commissioner C.K. McElyea.

The $790 million runway is scheduled to be open for bigger, commercial jets in 2014. The new runway is expected to increase the amount of take-offs and landings that can occur at the airport, thereby bolstering the local economy.

The county endorsed a plan to build the runway about five stories above the ground, going over U.S. 1 and the train tracks.

The primary concern of residents is the noise and air pollution. In June, the county and the FAA began paying for soundproofing at 48 residences south and west of the airport. It’s estimated to cost between $60,000 and $75,000 per home to replace the doors, windows, insulation and air conditioning units.

“Residents in certain areas are being asked to give up their life style,’’ said Linda Sacco, a member of the Dania Beach Airport Advisory Board, “which happens to be boating where I live, it happens to be outdoor life, it happens to be using pools, and it happens to be breathing clean air.”

Hell above

Three Mayday calls, 20 diversions to other airports and two packed Cathay Pacific and Dragonair passenger jets with more than 600 passengers and crew on board on a collision course: Were the extraordinary sequence events of Sept 18 in the skies around Hong Kong a freakish one-off or symptoms of deeper-rooted problems, asks Simon Parry.

It was a day when, with hindsight, anyone would have wanted to keep their feet firmly on the ground. For four nerve-jangling hours on Sept 18, a combination of treacherous weather and congested airspace set off a series of unprecedented events that made the sky a potentially dangerous place to be.

At the same time, five times below the planes that circled Hong Kong on that gloomy Sunday, one of the most stressful places on earth must have been the tower at Chek Lap Kok airport where air traffic controllers struggled under tremendous pressure to bring order to the chaotic events above them.

From 10 am until 2 pm, as a growing backlog of planescircled waiting to land in Hong Kong, three Cathay Pacific planes made requests for emergency landings as they began to run dangerously low on fuel, and around 20 planes from different carriers were diverted to airports in Macao, Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

Then, most dramatically of all, at around 1.13 pm, Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) cockpit alarms sounded on a Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 300-ER flying in from New York and a Dragonair Airbus A330 flying from Taiwan as they found themselves on a collision course.

Hurtling towards each other with a combined total of more than 600 passengers and crew, the planes were within 2,000 metres with the cockpit crew able to see each other when the Dragonair plane steered upwards and the Cathay plane dived to put a safe distance between them.

Even then, the drama was not over, according to reliable air traffic control sources who say the Dragonair flight was forced to change course for a second time to avoid another aircraft - also believed to be a Cathay Pacific flight - although an airline spokesman said later the planes involved in the second incident were never close enough trigger cockpit alarms.

The events in the skies around Hong Kong on September 18 are already the subject of an investigation by the Civil Aviation Department. But they have reopened a ferocious debate within Air Traffic Control (ATC) as to whether the manpower levels are adequate.

In May, a China Daily investigation revealed how some air traffic controllers were concerned about growing traffic volumes staffing levels and a stretched manpower along with a build-up of untaken leave that had seen some controllers accumulate more than 180 unclaimed days off.

Speaking to the newspaper on condition of anonymity, some air traffic controllers said fatigue was leading to an increase in mistakes by weary controllers and they warned flight safety was being compromised. "We need at least 10 or 15 more controllers to cope," one of them said, claiming many young controllers were "demoralized, unmotivated and numbed into submission".

The concerns culminated in a tense exchange of letters between the Civil Aviation Department and the Hong Kong Air Traffic Control Association, which represents 30 per cent of controllers, in which the association complained about fatigue and manpower levels.

Despite air traffic movements in Hong Kong rising this year to record levels of nearly 1,000 incoming and outgoing flights a day, CAD Director General Norman Lo claimed staffing levels have kept pace, insisting: "I am sure there is sufficient manpower."

Now - following the drama of Sept 18 - the arguments have resurfaced with worried air traffic controllers again contacting the China Daily to say they need more staff and that the events of that Sunday may only be a foretaste of something worse to come.

"The controllers involved are still a bit shell-shocked about how fast everything developed and how close we came to the worst possible scenario that day," said one controller, again speaking on condition of anonymity. "They feel frustration towards management."

For their part, the airlines involved in the drama and the CAD have issued jarring statements in which the CAD appears to blame the pilots for failing to respond to initial air traffic control instructions while Cathay Pacific and Dragonair insist cockpit crew responded correctly.

Confirming the loss of separation - the technical term for a near-miss - between the incoming Cathay Pacific flight from New York and the Dragonair flight from Kaohsiung, a spokeswoman for both airlines insisted: "There was no risk of collision and at no time was the safety of the flights compromised.

"At the closest, they were one nautical mile (2,000 meters) apart when abeam from each other with increasing vertical separation. Both aircraft's TCAS equipment generated appropriate alerts and the pilots took immediate action to maintain adequate separation."

The two flights had been put in a holding pattern around 40 nautical miles southwest of Chek Lap Kok at the time of the incident and the planes were "restricted to narrow tracks to avoid bad weather when descending from the holding area to land in (Hong Kong)", the spokeswoman said.

A CAD statement, however, focussing on the actions of the air traffic controller involved in the specific incident involving the Cathay Pacific Boeing and the Dragonair Airbus, said: "The A330 was holding at (position) FL220 together with five other aircraft at respective lower levels when the B777 was inbound to the same area for holding.

"The crew of the B777 reported having only 10 minutes holding fuel, a same company aircraft then offered to swap its landing slot.

"While attempting to rearrange the holding sequence, the controller detected the conflict of the A330 and B777 aircraft at the same level and immediately instructed both aircraft to turn when they were about 8.5 nautical miles apart and both crews of the A330 and the B777 were in visual contact with each other."

The statement continued: "The A330 crew did not accept the turn instruction.The controller then instructed the B777 to climb to a higher level for vertical separation but with no response from the crew.

"About 17 seconds later, the A330 reported 'TCAS climb' and the B777 reported 'TCAS descent'. They passed at 1 nautical mile (2 km) in diverging turns and increasing in vertical separation. The standard separation applicable is 5 nautical miles or 1,000 feet.

"The avoiding actions were executed in a controlled manner and as both pilots had the other aircraft in sight well in advance, there was no risk of collision."

It added: "The controller took appropriate corrective actions to ensure safe operations well before the separation was reduced to below the standard and in accordance with the laid down procedures.

"All actions by the controller were conducted in a calm and timely manner throughout the occurrence."

Responding to the claim that the pilots did not respond to the initial ATC directions, the airlines' spokeswoman said: "Both Cathay Pacific and Dragonair pilots took appropriate actions under the circumstances to re-establish standard separation between the two aircraft."

Giving an insight into the extent of the chaos on Sept 18, the airlines' spokeswoman confirmed that eight other Cathay Pacific planes had diverted to Taipei, Kaohsiung, Macau and Guangzhou, creating delays in arriving at Chek Lap Kok of two to three hours.

"In addition, two freighter services and a passenger flight from London CX256 also made a fuel emergency request for priority landing while at requested holding position," she added. "One freighter diverted to Macau, while the other two flights landed in Hong Kong. All landed without incident with sufficient spare fuel ranging from 30-50 minutes of flight."

The CAD in a detailed statement was categorical in dismissing suggestions that the events of September 18 raised questions about manpower and fatigue among controllers.

"The controller had three work shifts in the preceding seven days and had just returned from a day off," the statement said. "After finishing a one-hour break, the controller had worked for about 10 minutes before the occurrence. Therefore, fatigue or tiredness were not likely to be contributory".

The statement added: "On a normal day, there are typically eight controller working positions for the Approach Control Sectors. In anticipation of the difficult traffic due to bad weather, there was one additional working position opened up - a total of nine - on Sept 18, and 13 controllers were provided to man the 9 positions in managing the air traffic.

"The staffing provision was considered sufficient to meet the traffic level. Over the past five years, more than 40 new rated controllers have been added to the system, representing more than 25 percent increase in controller strength. The healthy staffing situation has been thoroughly discussed and shared with the controllers association in May."

However, the assurances from the CAD have been dismissed by some air traffic controllers who contacted the China Daily, one of whom described said colleagues on duty on September 18 viewed what happened as "a near collapse of an ATC system".

The controller said: "Although the weather was a contributing factor, the whole situation illustrated there was no contingency plan, no back up and supervisors responsible for a general overview of traffic werecovering traffic positions. Once again the staffing situation is glaringly obvious.

"Anyone who sees the radar recordings and listening to the tapes will see just how chaotic a situation it was. The controller involved got swamped.

"She should not be made responsible for a systematic failure. Perhaps an investigation by the Cathay or Dragon pilots union would result in a more balanced finding."

The controller said it was "very lucky indeed" that the two aircraft involved in the loss of separation had each other in sight and said there could have been a "very different result" if visibility had been poorer.

"It's all very well to say the controller involved had just had a day off but when was the last time the controller had a significant two or three week break away from work?" the controller asked.

"The CAD says there was sufficient staffing that day but no mention is made of three supervisors having to cover operational positions due to the traffic and thereby missing the overall position and the continuing inbound traffic."

Another air traffic controller said it was "absolute rubbish" to say that the staffing situation was healthy, pointing out that staff were being taken off regular duty to prepare for the opening of the new Air Traffic Control centre due to open at Chek Lap Kok next year.

"We are operationally understaffed as too many experienced controllers have been attached to the project team for the new center."

If the dispute that erupted in May can be taken as a guide, Norman Lo and his fellow executives can be expected to contest the claims of the air traffic controllers who voiced their concerns to theChina Daily.

CAD leaders have made it clear they see the alarmist talk as the grumblings of a minority who overestimate the difficulties of an admittedly tight but manageable manpower situation affecting all Hong Kong government departments.

For the air traffic controllers involved, however, the situation has become deeply disturbing and the events of Sept 18 have only reinforced their fears. "The alarm bells are getting louder and management can't afford to keep closing their ears to them," one of them said.