Wednesday, November 09, 2011

January 16, 1945: Hit with shrapnel, Royal Air Force pilot ejects and lands safely -- in front of his favourite pub

Philip Tripe learned to fly as a teenager in Ottawa on the eve of the Second World War. In 1939, he signed up for the Royal Air Force in England, rising through the ranks to command a Spitfire squadron.

On Jan. 16, 1945, Sqn. Ldr. Tripe was leading a mission to strafe German supply trucks and tanks in Belgium when the planes came under fire from anti-aircraft guns. He was hit, taking five pieces of shrapnel in his arm. As he headed back to base, another explosion damaged the right wing of his plane. Despite his injuries, Sqn. Ldr. Tripe managed to open the top of the cockpit, stand up and let the air current pull him free. He parachuted from 1,500 feet and landed near a pub called the Mardaga.

According to a contemporary newspaper account, the bar owner recognized the injured pilot – British airmen used to drink at his establishment nightly – and offered him a bottle of his best cognac while they waited for an army truck.

Sqn. Ldr. Tripe returned to Canada shortly afterwards. He died in 1982.

His daughter, Anne Crossman, visited the Mardaga herself more than 60 years after her father’s remarkable survival to present the bar with a poster commemorating that day.

Flares prompt search. (With Audio) Hunter Island, off Tasmania's far north west coast, Australia.

Audio: ABC Launceston reporter Jessica Kidd speaks with Senior Constable Steven Jones about the search. (ABC News)

An air and sea search is underway off the State's north west coast after three flares were seen last night.

The search has begun off the southern end of Hunter Island, off Tasmania's far north west coast.

Three parachute flares were set-off in the area about 10pm (ADST) last night.

Senior Constable Steven Jones says marine police began patrolling the area shortly after the flares were reported by a commercial fisherman.

"We're unaware of whether it's a vessel that's overturned or whether somebody's in the water, at this stage we're unaware of what we're looking for," he said.

The rescue helicopter and a plane are helping police scour a 75 square kilometre search area.

Sen. Constable Jones says there have been no reports of overdue vessels and conditions in the area were calm last night.

"We had a police vessel out that was all last night travelling throughout the area of the flare sightings and from the reports of the skipper on that police vessel the conditions were relatively calm and they were able to certainly navigate around the area very well."

Police are asking anyone who knows of any vessels in the area to contact them.

Prime Minister calls for upgrade of Sandakan airport

SANDAKAN: Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Liew Vui Keong said Sandakan should have a distinctive airport of international standing in order to attract more foreign tourists.

Describing Sandakan as a destination offering diversity in eco-tourism, he said based on the number of aircraft movements and the increasing number of passengers from year to year, it was appropriate for the airport to be upgraded and the flight frequencies increased in order to make it competitive with other airports in the country.

“Upgrading the airport is in line with the government’s aspiration to make Malaysia a premier tourist destination in Southeast Asia.

“The Ministry of Tourism targets the revenue earned from tourism be about RM161 billion with an influx of 36 million tourists by 2020,” he said.

Liew, who is also Sandakan member of paliament, added by upgrading it into an international airport, the district would be able to attract investors.

He said that when declaring open the 12th Sandakan Festival held at the lobby of the Sandakan airport yesterday.

The two-day festival which started yesterday, is an affirmation of welcome for tourists to visit Sandakan which is known for its natural environment and tropical rainforest.

Various events and activities have been planned to attract the people to come and visit the Sandakan airport.

“We must treat this airport not only as a point of arrival and departure but also to visit the outlets which offer products to suit the tourists’ tastes,” Liew added.

He stressed that in order to turn Sandakan into a district that can generate its own economy, particularly for the local communities, the high-end tourist markets should be tapped and given attention to, especially in Europe, the Middle East, China, Korea and Japan.

He called on the operators and agencies based at the airport to continue providing courteous and quality service to protect the image of the country and that of the district.

Also present were Sandakan Municipal Council president Datuk Ir James Wong and Malaysia Airport Berhad Sandakan manager Awang Mali Awang Anak.

San Antonio among best places for military retirees' second career.

San Antonio placed fifth on a list of the best places for retired military personnel to start a second career.

Oklahoma City; Norfolk, Va.; Richmond, Va.; and Austin ranked ahead of San Antonio in the survey, compiled by San Antonio-based financial institution USAA and, a news and membership organization for the military.

USAA and commissioned Sperling's BestPlaces to create a ranking to help military retirees decide where to begin anew.

“We wanted to take some of the guesswork out of where one should look to launch that second career,” said June Walbert, a USAA certified financial planner. Finding a place to start a second career “is an enormous financial undertaking that these veterans ... go through,” she added.

The survey evaluated 379 metro areas. While the San Antonio area has fewer federal jobs than Austin, the Alamo City scored well for the volume of defense contracts awarded and for “jobs that are a good fit for military skills.”

“Military skills include aviation, engineering, logistics management, emergency services, protective services and medical services,” Walbert said. “That was our No. 1 metric that we used as we conducted this study.”

Others factors included an area's unemployment rate, the number of small and veteran-owned businesses, and proximity to military installations and Veterans Affairs hospitals.

San Antonio registered “solid affordability scores,” with the survey noting there's no state tax on military retirement pay.

Last year, San Antonio ranked second on a list of the best military towns for military personnel to retire. That survey looked at cost of living, raising a family and maximizing the benefits offered to veterans, as well as starting a second career. Oklahoma City finished atop that list, also compiled by USAA and

Lawsuit: Training Blinded Air Marshal in One Eye. Dallas lawsuit blames defective helmet

An all-too-real terrorism-training exercise blinded a former federal air marshal in one eye when he was shot in the face with a simulated bullet and a defective helmet failed to protect him, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Dallas.

Shawn Parks, of Denton, said the incident happened during a training exercise in a mock jet near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport when another marshal acting as a “terrorist” fired a weapon with a simulated bullet.

"There's a good-guy team and a bad-guy team,” Parks said in an interview. "Simulation rounds make the training very realistic. When you get hit, you know you get hit."

But during one exercise on Nov. 9, 2009, something went wrong, he said.

"I said, 'Ow, stop, hold,'” Parks said in an interview. “When I took my helmet off, a round fell out. The projectile fell out. Right then, we knew, 'There's a problem here.' "

The bullet penetrated the seam between the plastic shield and the helmet, striking Parks in the right eye and causing "traumatic optic neuropathy," according to the suit.

Parks filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Dallas against the helmet’s manufacturer -- General Dynamics Corp., and its subsidiary, Simunition Ltd. The helmet was the model FX9000, the lawsuit said.

Kendell Pease, vice president of government relations and communications for General Dynamics, declined to talk about the case, saying the company does not comment on pending lawsuits.

Parks, a former soldier in the U.S. Army, served in the first Iraq War. He then became a police officer in Richardson and Frisco before being hired one of the country’s first air marshals after the 9/11 terrorist attack.

The lawsuit asks for damages for Park's medical care, disfigurement, physical pain, mental anguish and loss of earnings. Parks said he can no longer work in law enforcement.

General Dynamics had changed the design of the helmet at some point before the accident so that the eye shield was better attached, but Parks was using an older one, the lawsuit said.

"You'd expect a company like General Dynamics to do a recall or at least warn the customers or the end users of this potential problem and get the product off the market, particularly when they've seemingly developed a model that fixes that problem.”

Parks, a former U.S. Army soldier and police officer in Frisco and Richardson, said he volunteered to be an undercover federal air marshal after the terrorist attacks in 2001, the lawsuit said. As part of his job, he flew on domestic and international flights.

The lawsuit does not name the Department of Homeland Security or the Transportation Security Administration, which runs the air marshal program.

Parks said he believed his training overall was excellent and “by the book” on the day of the accident.

It’s not clear how many of the older-model helmets might still be in use around the country.

A TSA spokeswoman, Kim Thompson, declined to comment, citing advice from agency attorneys.

Parks said he now has trouble driving and has from frequent migraines and regrets not being able to work in law enforcement.

"You get your whole life kind of ripped out from underneath you,” he said.

Qantas pilots move to overturn ban on industrial action

The long-haul pilots' union has today launched a legal challenge to the workplace umpire's termination of its long-running battle with Qantas.

In a decision that threatens to reignite the bitter battle that led to the grounding of Qantas's fleet for two days, the pilots' union today filed proceedings in the Federal Court in Sydney, seeking a review of Fair Work Australia's decision last week to terminate its protected industrial action.

The Australian and International Pilots' Association had been waiting for further talks today with Qantas negotiators in front of the workplace umpire before deciding whether to challenge. It had said that Qantas had made "semi-conciliatory noises" in negotiations on Tuesday.

But the union said today that it had launched legal action because the negotiations before Fair Work were "moving very slowly" and it believed that Qantas's decision to lock out staff involved in the industrial action was "disproportionate" to its campaign, which included wearing non-uniform ties.

"The appeal is a backstop to have the decision reviewed if the negotiations move [too] slowly," the union's vice-president, Richard Woodward, said today.

After Qantas made its shock announcement on October 29 that it would lock out workers involved in industrial action, the government intervened by seeking a termination of the airline's dispute with three unions, including the pilots' association. The airline and the unions have been given 21 days to settle their differences or face binding arbitration.

The Transport Workers Union, which represents baggage handlers and other ground crew, has also threatened to challenge Fair Work Australia's decision to terminate its dispute with Qantas. However, the TWU said today that a date had not been set to decide whether to appeal.

"Legal options remain open for as long as Qantas pursues a belligerent stance towards the job security of employees who have kept Qantas profitable for over 20 years," it said in a statement.

The pilots' union received advice from two senior barristers this week that it had grounds to challenge Fair Work's decision to terminate the industrial action because Qantas's lock-out of its members was disproportionate to their campaign. It had involved wearing non-uniform red ties and making announcements to passengers on planes, alerting them to their cause.

The key sticking point between the two sides remains the pilots' demand for staff working on Qantas subsidiaries overseas to receive the same pay and conditions as their Australian counterparts. They have been given 21 days to reach a settlement or face binding arbitration.

Erath County, Texas: Booms from training exercise startle residents

DUBLIN — Incredibly loud bangs, one after the other, sent Dublin residents scrambling from their homes just before 9 p.m. Tuesday as windows rattled and buildings shook.

Erath County Constable Lee Roy Gaitan said another occurrence of the loud bangs had occurred about 4:45 p.m. He said he received several calls from concerned residents asking him to check into the source, which apparently was a jet training exercise.

Don Ray, public information officer at the Fort Worth Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, said the base had two training exercises at those times, the first one involving 10 F-16s and the second involving 12 F-16s.

"These were operational readiness evaluations." Ray said. "It puts them (pilots) back into the cycle to deploy back overseas."

Ray said the base sends out two jets at a time so they don't all arrive in the Brownwood Military Operating Area at once.

Ray said cloud cover can affect the noise level.

"If the clouds are low, the noise level will be greater," he said.

He couldn't speculate as to whether or not the sound barrier had been broken but said according to the FAA the barrier can be legally broken if the aircraft is above 31,000 feet. Ray said from the ground it's hard to judge the distance.

Donna Kirklen, Erath County Sheriff's Office sergeant over communications, said the office received numerous phone calls from the west and southwest portions of Erath County.

Dublin Police Chief Lannie Lee said the same was true for his office and in his own home the pictures almost shook off the wall. He first thought was that an explosion had occurred.

"It was abnormally loud and intense," he said.

A spokesperson for the Stephenville Police Department said the department did not receive any word of the noise during the morning meeting on Wednesday and didn't believe any calls came in when the events occurred.

Ray said if anyone experienced damage to a building to call the air base and they would be put in touch with the legal department.

All of the law enforcement agencies contacted said they had no reports of damage.

Southern California: Lancaster approves police surveillance by plane

Lancaster city officials have unanimously approved a measure that would allow police to use a plane affixed with high-tech optical equipment to record the movements of people on the ground.

The aerial surveillance program, slated to begin by next May, will involve a piloted Cessna 172 fixed-wing aircraft that would circle the Antelope Valley city at altitudes of 1,000 to 3,000 feet some 10 hours a day.

The technology affixed to the plane and developed by Lancaster-based Spiral Technology Inc. will record video footage that will be transmitted to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

All five Lancaster City Council members voted Tuesday to approve the program, which will cost $1.3 million. Financing for the initiative would come from existing funds in the fiscal year budget, city officials said.

The charge for surveillance is expected to run around $300 an hour, or about $90,000 a month. The aircraft would be fueled and maintained at a local Lancaster airfield.

Local law enforcement officials hailed the new technology as a way to add superior surveillance, patrol and investigative capabilities to their crime-fighting arsenal.

St. Louis airline looks to board in Tupelo

TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - The first of two airlines have now made their pitch to take over air service in Tupelo.

St. Louis-based Air Choice One took less than an hour to make its presentation.

Air Choice One's Grand Cessna Caravan, has one engine and can carry 9 passengers.

The price for a flight one way to Memphis is $59 regardless of when you buy the ticket.

"It gives an advantage not only for the airport but us as a carrier. Therefore they (passengers) are not guessing if its too expensive (to purchase a last minute ticket)," said Air Choice One's CEO Shane Storz.

The airline plans to increase flights to Memphis from two to five times a day.

After the short presentation, those who attended the meeting were treated to a short flight around Tupelo.

The Caravan offers leather seating and spacious leg room. While the passengers seemed to enjoy the flight, airport leaders still have a few concerns.

"Initially the big concern we have is that we need the ability for passengers to flow through the airport system. We want them to be able to check their baggage once, and fly to their destination," said Tupelo Regional Airport director Josh Abramson.

Another concern Abramson said is the publics buy in. He said the challenge, if they decide to go with this airline, is to convince flyers of the planes safety.

"It's a very dependable work horse of an airplane," said Abramsom. "One of the issues that people comment about is that it's a single engine aircraft. We want to reiterate that it's a jet engine aircraft. While there's a propeller on the front, it's a jet engine that turns it."

Hawke's Bay First Jet Aircraft Charter Service

Press Release: Air Hawke's Bay

Hawke's Bay First Jet Aircraft Charter Service

GESL Aviation Limited is pleased to announce the purchase of the Cessna Citation Mustang aircraft from Lowe Corporation. The acquisition has been made in order to bring Hawke's Bay its first jet charter service.

The service will operate from Hastings/Bridge Pa airfield, which is equipped with runway lighting & for bad weather approaches. The plane can also operate from Napier.

"The time flexibility of private charter means passengers can fly when it suits them. If a meeting or other crucial engagement runs overtime or is delayed the plane can leave when you are ready" said Mr. Grocott, Chief Pilot of GESL Ltd.

"The jet can fly from Hawke's Bay directly to Kerikeri, New Plymouth, Wanaka or Invercargill, which in both travel time and expense is a dramatic saving when compared with a scheduled airline. For example, Hawke's Bay to New Plymouth is around 30 minutes flight time" said Mr. Grocott.

HB Chamber of Commerce CEO Murray Douglas welcomed the new travel option for the Bay. "GESL should be congratulated on taking this step to make this new and remarkable affordable service available for Bay business people to more readily reach other parts of New Zealand.

"With the company's new charter rate, fast comfortable travel is extremely economic, and now within the reach of many who would have previously dismissed the idea out of hand" said Mr. Douglas.

GESL Aviation Ltd is operating its charter flights under the banner of Air Hawkes Bay Ltd. There is a list of destinations and flight charges on the Air Hawke's Bay's web site

Spitfire redux: The WWII guns firing after 70 years buried in peat. (With Video)

An excavation at the site of a 1941 Spitfire crash in a bog in the Irish Republic uncovered huge, remarkably preserved chunks of plane and six Browning machine guns. After 70 years buried in peat could they be made to fire? They certainly could, writes Dan Snow.

It was June in Donegal, when we stood on a windswept hillside in hard hats and high-vis surrounded by a crowd of locals and watched by an Irish army unit while we filmed an archaeological excavation.

This was the place where, in 1941, Roland "Bud" Wolfe, an American pilot flying a British RAF Spitfire, paid for by a wealthy Canadian industrialist, had experienced engine failure while flying over the neutral Republic of Ireland.

After flying a sortie over the Atlantic, Wolfe was on his way back to his base in Northern Ireland when he was forced to bail out. He parachuted safely to the ground - his plane smashed into the boggy hillside.

Fast-forwarding 70 years and local aviation expert Johnny McNee was able to identify the wreck site. The ensuing dig was accompanied by intense anticipation.

We did not have to wait long for results. Suddenly the fresh Donegal air was tainted with the tang of aviation fuel.

Minutes later the mechanical digger's bucket struck metal. We leapt into the pit to continue by hand. One by one the Spitfire's Browning machine guns were hauled out.

We had hoped for one in reasonable condition - we got six, in great shape, with belts containing hundreds of gleaming .303 rounds. The Irish soldiers then stepped in. This was a cache of heavy weapons, however historic they might be.

Next came fuselage, twisted but in huge pieces, over a metre across, still painted in wartime colours, with neat stencils of the plane's ID and the iconic RAF bullseye-style roundel.

Flight policy change called a risky maneuver: Move leaves small airlines in grey zone

A new safety approach aimed at getting airlines to police themselves could endanger passengers, particularly those flying with smaller airlines, aviation experts warn.

In 2005, Transport Canada began changing over to a system that critics say essentially left airlines to regulate themselves, instead of primarily relying on federal inspectors to oversee airplane safety as they had before.

The federal department says the new approach, called safety management systems (SMS), makes flying safer, but critics disagree.

"If we don't have proper oversight, in effect, people are going to do bad things," said Dave Winter, a former federal aviation inspector who quit over frustration with the new system.

As an inspector, Winter used to board planes to monitor flying skills, check log books, speak with a range of people including engineers and pilots, and even conduct undercover surveillance to check for unsafe practices.

"I think we prevented a lot of accidents from happening," Winter told CBC News. "It kind of kept everybody in line."

Under the SMS approach, when a mistake happens, the airline employee is responsible for filling out an internal safety report. But there is no requirement for the company to report the infraction to Transport Canada. Federal inspectors are now responsible for reviewing the overall system.

Transport Canada's detailed audit program ended with the introduction of SMS to major airlines, and shortly after the federal department dramatically cut back on inspections.

A ‘classic example’

Debbie Wolsey says her husband's death was the "classic example of SMS not working."

For months, Capt. Rick Wolsey and his junior co-pilot hadn't been getting along. Despite complaints, SMS wasn't used properly to deal with the situation and Transwest Air continued to schedule the pilots to fly together.

On Jan. 7, 2007, the crew was on a routine flight in northern Saskatchewan. As the two got ready to land the plane, it was apparently not in the proper position.

A decision was made to abandon the landing and try again. In a communication problem, the co-pilot assumed that Wolsey had taken over the controls but apparently he hadn't. The plane crashed into the trees.

A review by the Transportation Safety Board found the main cause of the crash was the pilots' failure to work together and found the airline's SMS system had failed.

System 'good on paper'

Martin Eley, director general of civil aviation, says compliance is now the responsibility of airlines.

"You need to have systems in place to make sure you’re compliant," Eley said. "We're going to come in and look at those systems but it's not our job to make sure you’re compliant."

Winter argues that the new system fails to spot potential problems.

"All they are really inspecting is their system of how they operate, not what they're actually doing," the former aviation inspector said. "They could be doing all types of bad things but their systems could look good on paper."

Critics of the new system concede that self-policing works relatively well with Canada's major airlines because they often have a protective union environment and face greater public scrutiny, but that's not the case for smaller airlines.

These airlines are also currently operating in a grey zone. While major airlines now comply with SMS, Transport Canada has delayed the implementation of SMS for smaller airlines.

And because the government has reduced its hands-on inspections, those carriers face even less oversight.

"They're free to do whatever they want right now," Winter said.

Need SMS and inspectors: expert

Transport Canada documents reveal that questions were raised internally about the safety of moving to the new approach.

An internal risk assessment conducted in 2006 warned that foreign countries may "lose confidence" in Canada’s air safety and that unsafe conditions could develop.

Canada is the only country to implement safety management systems without maintaining its traditional hands-on federal inspections program.

Virgil Moshansky, a world-renowned aviation safety expert and retired judge, recommended the use of SMS during a public inquiry into the deadly 1989 Dryden plane crash — one of Canada's worst air disasters — but only in conjunction with the old system.

"What we disagree with is introducing safety management systems and at the same time delegating regulatory authority and enforcement to the carriers themselves," said Moshansky.

"Nothing is telling us that those decisions that we made were wrong," Eley said.

However, Transportation Safety Board statistics reveal that the overall accident rate began declining before SMS was introduced in 2005 and leveled off in the following years. But the rate of fatalities has recently increased, particularly in the last two years when it rose to 1.6 deaths for every 100,000 flight-hours.

Safety the primary concern: Transport Canada

Transport Canada documents also show that cost-saving measures played a role in the decision to move toward SMS.

One document, dated Oct. 22, 2001, notes that the department has a $17.3-million shortfall in safety oversight. One of the main solutions proposed to solve the dilemma is SMS since it would result in "reduced regulatory burden, Crown liability [and] oversight requirements."

"They certainly had uppermost in their minds reducing the costs of the operations of Transport Canada. The easiest place to reduce this was by cutting the number of inspectors," Moshansky said.

A July 30, 1999, memo, written by the director of commercial aviation, expresses concerns about a "critical" shortage of inspectors and increasing demands.

Transport Canada insists increased safety was always the main objective of SMS, but admits the department couldn’t afford to police the industry to the same degree as it continued to grow.

"We knew that our resources were not going to grow above and beyond what we had — that we would not be able to maintain inspecting at a detailed level," Eley said.

Instead, he said, the department decided to focus on a more effective use of resources.

Transport Canada also stresses that there hasn’t been as much need to conduct detailed inspections as in the past because SMS helps inspectors detect problems in the way airlines operate.

However, Moshansky compared the system to a police officer trying to reduce speeding by waving a sign at passing motorists that says, "Let me know if you’re speeding and I'll write you a ticket."

"No other country has done that," Moshansky said. "And some of them are actually amazed that this is happening in Canada."

Beechcraft Baron: All’s well that lands well for airplane in distress. British Columbia, Canada.

A distress call from a small aircraft at the Kamloops airport was resolved before emergency crews could get close to Fulton Field Wednesday afternoon.

Airport manager Fred Legace said a twin engine Beechcraft Baron took off from Kamloops in the afternoon and it appears a door came ajar while it was in flight.

The plane returned to the airport, but the pilot couldn’t extend the flaps on the aircraft, which allows the airplane to slow down for landing, Legace said.

A distress call was made and emergency vehicles were called in.

Moments later, the pilot landed without any problems, he said.

“He ended up having to land — we call it landing hot — at a higher than normal speed,” he said.

“He was down and landed before anybody arrived.”

The emergency crews were called off and the pilot got the problems sorted out quickly, Legace said.

Within a few more minutes, the pilot took off without a hitch.

While the airport doesn’t have onsite fire trucks and crews, the tender for a truck has just gone out and the advertising has begun for a firefighter supervisor/instructor, he said.

Legace said the fire truck is expected to arrive next summer.

Seeing through the fog: Wagga Wagga Airport, Australia. (Audio Interview)

Wagga Wagga Airport launched their newest gadget today.

The Instrument Landing System (ILS) will help pilots and ground staff navigate landings in bad weather or fog where they have otherwise been unable to land.

The ILS will mean a greater reliability can be placed on the flights coming in and going out of Wagga meaning that less flights are likely to be cancelled or postponed.

It will also be a valuable training tool for pilots in the region as they no longer have to travel to Canberra to practice landing using the ILS system.

Chris caught up with Rob Walker who is the Manager of Corporate Communications at Airservices Australia to find out more about the ILS and how it will benefit the Riverina.

Flying hospital helps give the gift of sight. (With Video)

MEMPHIS, TN - Doctors and nurses from the Mid-South are helping people around the world with eye problems.

ORBIS International and their eye care professionals and aviation staff are able to save the eyesight of millions of people around the world. They said none of this would be possible without the flying eye hospital.

The world's only aircraft with a fully functional eye hospital on board landed in Memphis Wednesday as part of the North American Goodwill Tour.

Sponsored by FedeEx, ORBIS International is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that works to save eyesight around the world .

"We train nurses, doctors and optometrists all in this area," said ORBIS Associate Director of Nursing Heather Machin. "We are also doing live surgery for the patients that have been selected."

ORBIS doctors work to provide the necessary skills for quality eye care to doctors in developing countries.

"Very interesting for us when we go back to a country that we've already been working in, you're able to actually see them implement the teachings and the training that we've been able to establish a year or two years prior," said Flying Hospital Communications Manager Perry Athanason.

According to ORBIS, over 39 million people are blind and about 80 percent of those vision impairment cases are preventable or treatable.

In addition to a $5.3 million cash donation, FedEx announced they will donate an MD-10 cargo aircraft to ORBIS to be converted into a new flying eye hospital.

Director of Aircraft Operations Bruce Johnson said the Goodwill Tour is about showing sponsors that their donations are indispensable.

"This is something tangible that they can actually see, unlike a lot of non-profits where you donate something and you never know what happens, you can actually see there is something that's being done," said Johnson.

All ORBIS International pilots train in Memphis at the FedEx simulator. They reportedly all volunteer to fly on the sight-saving missions.

Crash copter's warning system off

A ground proximity warning system was not in use on a helicopter which crashed into a mountain, killing a polo-playing friend of the Prince of Wales, an accident report has said.

The system fitted to the Agusta helicopter had not been powered up since a replacement unit was fitted in 2009, around a year before the accident, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report said.

The system, the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, was not a requirement for the helicopter to operate and the alerts it provided could become considered as "nuisance" alerts, the report said.

But it added: "Had the system been in use on the accident flight, the presence of the high ground ahead of the helicopter should have initiated a 'TERRAIN' alert."

This alert would have been activated by Shanlieve, the peak in the Mourne Mountains of Northern Ireland on which the Agusta crashed on the afternoon of October 23 last year.

The report said there was no reduction in speed up to the point when the Agusta hit the west face of Shanlieve about 100ft below the 2,054ft-high summit.

This suggested that the pilot, former RAF pilot Anthony Smith, 63, was "content with the visibility ahead... or that he believed he had cleared the high ground", the AAIB said.

Mr Smith was killed in the crash, along with the Prince's friend Charles Stisted, 47, chief executive of the Guards Polo Club at Windsor, and Ian Wooldridge, 52, who was also a member of the club.

After the crash, a Clarence House spokesman said that Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Prince Harry were "all shocked and deeply saddened by this terrible tragedy".

While the report said that "no conclusive causal factors for the accident could be established", the AAIB added that a technical fault with the helicopter "cannot be completely ruled out". The report added that the aircraft was so badly damaged that "a full inspection was not possible".

71-year-old pilot that "nosedived" into ground 'distracted by need to go to the toilet'

A 71-year-old light aircraft pilot almost paid the ultimate price for wanting to spend a penny, it was revealed today.

Having eaten a light meal and downed two mugs of tea, the pilot took off from Husbands Bosworth in Leicestershire, a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.

After 45 minutes he decided he might need a "toilet call" but had already passed three landing sites he visited regularly.
He considered landing at Breighton airfield in North Yorkshire but decided to continue on to Rufforth, only 15 minutes further away.

The AAIB report said the pilot came in to land at Rufforth "with the toilet call still on his mind".

He was lining the plane up and then "remembered nothing else until he was crawling out of the aircraft".

Witnesses saw the aircraft clip a tree at about 50ft on final approach and "nosedive" into the ground, damaging a wing and the landing gear. The pilot was taken to hospital with head and wrist injuries.

The report said: "The pilot commented in his frank report that he considered a major causal factor in the accident to be that he allowed his need for a toilet call to blur his concentration during the final approach."

Thin recruiting pool sets stage for pilot error

Sitting on a plush leather-coated couch in his spacious office in Central Jakarta recently, Edward Sirait, the general affairs director of Lion Air, was busy receiving calls from reporters who bombarded him with questions about a former Lion pilot who recently stood trial for drug possession.

Earlier this year, Tangerang police arrested Muhammad Nasri, 40, along with other two people at a drugs party where four ecstasy pills and a package of crystal methamphetamine were found concealed in the pilot’s tie.

In one of the case hearings last month, a psychologist who examined Nasri during police questioning, testified that the defendant had admitted he was a long-time drug user and usually consumed drugs “before and after flying”. On Oct. 27, the Tangerang District Court sentenced Nasri to five years in prison.

“Nasri had been fired long before the arrest. He had a long record of disciplinary violations,” Edward said recently.

Edward, who together with Lion president director Rusdi Kirana has successfully turned the 10-year-old airline into the country’s leading low-cost carrier, refused to comment on how Nasri had managed to pass the airline’s medical screening.

Nasri’s story highlights a lurking problem in the airline industry, where recruitment processes seem too slack, as operators struggle with a shortage of pilots due to a limited number of aviation schools.

With the rapid increase in aircraft passengers over the past decade, Indonesia is home to around 50 airline operators.

The Transportation Ministry’s Air Transportation Director General, Herry Bhakti, has said the country needs up to 600 extra pilots a year, two times higher than the total number of pilots graduating from the country’s eight aviation schools.

With a lack of human resources, airlines have no option other than to extend the workload on existing pilots, which may increase the risk of air accidents.

According to the ministry’s airworthiness director, Diding Sunardi, the 28.5 percent jump in the number of aircraft accidents between January and Nov. 8 this year, as compared to last year, can primarily be blamed on human error.

A senior pilot with one of the country’s major airlines said it normally took between 12 and 15 years for a co-pilot to be promoted to pilot. “But some local airlines offer ‘quick promotions’ to become pilots after less than 10 years experience.”

Some airlines have even hired Transportation Ministry aircraft inspectors as pilots to cover the shortfall. Capt. Toto Soebandoro, the quality, safety and security director for Sriwijaya Airlines, the country’s third-largest carrier, admitted such hirings of several ministry inspectors.

“But we only hired them [as pilots] temporarily,” he said.

As of mid-2011, there were around 7,000 pilots working for domestic airlines, 300 of them foreign nationals.

Aviation observer Alvin Lie believes airlines’ policies to prematurely promote inexperienced co-pilots and hire government inspectors are a serious threat to air safety.

“It’s true that nowadays pilots can rely on advanced, computerized control systems when flying, but there is no guarantee that young, inexperienced pilots are ready to fly the aircraft manually if the systems fail,” he said.

“Hiring ministry inspectors as pilots would, of course, put the inspectors’ independence into question. There would be strong doubts as to whether an inspector would dare to take firm action against an airline that had hired him or her if that airline violated air safety procedures.”

Sneak peek of new John Wayne Airport terminal

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Traveling may get a little easier now that a brand new terminal is opening up at John Wayne Airport.

Terminal C will be open to the public next Monday, but Eyewitness News got a sneak peek.

It took about half a billion dollars to build the terminal, which has 48 kiosks, a security area equipped with full-body scanners, free Wi-Fi throughout the building and a brand new parking structure with about 2,000 spaces.

Along with new dining options and restaurants, there are six new gates in the terminal.

Even the floor has gotten an upgrade. It's all marble shipped in from Germany.

Southwest and Frontier airlines will be moving in to the new space.

"Moving is hard, so our employees are working very hard to make a great experience," said Brad Hawkins of Southwest Airlines. "We already carry more people out of Orange County than any other airline - about 50 flights a day. With this new facility, [there is] perhaps more potential for new opportunities. It's all about cost and the population, but we feel very optimistic about the future."

Travelers will also see art exhibits rotating throughout the walkway from Terminal B to Terminal C.

There's also a new opportunity for international flights for the first time at the airport.

"We have a new customs facility in Terminal C, and that's going to allow us to bring in new destinations from existing airlines or possibly some new airlines themselves, and we could fly most potentially to Mexico from here," said Jenny Wedge of John Wayne Airport.

Flybe to cut its winter timetable

The regional airline Flybe reported soaring profits yesterday but said it will reduce capacity by 6 per cent over the winter amid falling demand. Europe's biggest regional airline said underlying profits rose 74 per cent to £14.3m in the six months to 30 September after it was boosted by higher passenger numbers in the UK and the acquisition of an airline in Finland.

But the group, which flies from UK airports including Birmingham and Edinburgh said revenues from forward ticket sales for this winter are 1 per cent lower than a year ago.

It will reduce the number of seats flown over the winter by 6 per cent compared to a year ago.

Jim French, Flybe's executive chairman, said the advantage of Flybe's high flight frequency meant it could cut flights without cutting routes.

The fall in winter sales comes on the back of a warning that demand had slowed in September. Analyst Douglas McNeill, of Charles Stanley, said: "Demand doesn't appear to have recovered much since the profit warning, and that's a concern."

It echoes an announcement from Ryanair, which said passenger numbers will fall 10 per cent this month as it grounds more planes this winter.

Flybe said revenues at its UK business increased 7 per cent to £329m in the half-year as sales rose 6 per cent to £342m.

Schedule flights to Lukla resumes Thursday

KATHMANDU, Nov 10: Scheduled flights between Kathmandu and Lukla are resuming from Thursday after 10 days of disruption owing to bad weather.

Domestic carriers are resuming their scheduled flights after a marathon rescue operation concluded on Wednesday.

According to airlines operators, the airstrip handles up to 50 scheduled flights a day during this time of year. Tara Air, Agni Air, Sita Air and Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) operate scheduled flights to Lukla, which is considered one of the busiest airports in the country.

“We started operating scheduled flights from Nov 6 itself, but scheduled flights will resume full-fledged from tomorrow,” Manjita Shrestha of Tara Air said.

More than 1,000 flights on Kathmandu-Lukla-Kathmandu sector were cancelled after bad weather prevented operation of flights at the Lukla airstrip for nearly a week. Airline operators said they lost up to $40,000 a day.

Shreekant Baral of Airlines Operators Association of Nepal (AOAN) said all private carriers are resuming normal operation from Thursday as most of the stranded tourists have already been airlifted.

Shrestha of Tara Air said they operate up to 25 flights on the sector during peak season. “In average, we operate 20 flights a day during peak season,” she added.

Meanwhile, private choppers and airlines airlifted 871 tourists to Kathmandu from Lukla on Wednesday. Around 750 tourists were airlifted to the capital from Lukla on Tuesday. Private operators had rescued around 1,000 tourists on Monday and around 500 tourists on Sunday.

Purna Chudal, manager of Tribhuwan International Airport, said the Lukla airstrip handled a total of 61 flights, including 10 by choppers, on Wednesday. He said Tara Air operated 21 lights, while Agni Air, Sita Air and NAC operated 20, six and four flights respectively.

Rescue flights started at 6.15 am and continued till 5 in the evening, according to Chudal. Private airlines on the day ferried 30 tons of cargo to Lukla.

More than 3,000 tourists were stranded in Lukla - a popular gateway to Mt Everest - since Oct 31, after bad weather prevented operation of flights.

California man injured in Reno air race crash files lawsuit in Nevada, claims negligence

Reno, Nev. — A 70-year-old California man who lost an eye after a racing plane crashed into spectators in Reno has filed a personal injury lawsuit.

Attorney David Casey in San Diego said Wednesday the civil negligence case filed Monday in Washoe County District Court names the pilot's family, a mechanic on the aircraft and the organization that hosts the National Championship Air Races.

It seeks unspecified damages for injuries suffered by Gerry de Treville of Ukiah, Calif.

The lawsuit was first reported by KTVN-TV in Reno.

It is similar to one filed Oct. 31 in Texas by the family of a man killed in the Sept. 16 crash of pilot Jimmy Leeward's World War II-era P-51 Mustang at Reno-Stead Airport.

Eleven people died, including Leeward. At least 74 were hurt.

Second Lawsuit Filed in Deadly Air Races Crash

A second lawsuit has been filed in the wake of September's deadly crash at the Reno Air Races.

Monday, a San Diego-based law office filed suit in Nevada District Court on behalf of Gerry de Treville of Ukiah, California who was seriously injured and lost an eye in the crash.

The suit names the family of Galloping Ghost pilot Jimmy Leeward, the Reno air Racing Association, the mechanic who worked on the plane and the company that maintained the Galloping Ghost as defendants.

Earlier this month an attorney for the family of a Texas man killed in the crash filed a $25 million lawsuit.

Leeward's modified P51 Mustang plunged nose-first into a crowd of hundreds of spectators, killing 11 and injuring more than 50.

NTSB Identification: WPR11MA454
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, September 16, 2011 in Reno, NV
Aircraft: NORTH AMERICAN/AERO CLASSICS P-51D, registration: N79111
Injuries: 11 Fatal,66 Serious.

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.

On September 16, 2011, about 1626 Pacific daylight time, an experimental North America P-51D, N79111, impacted terrain following a loss of control while maneuvering at Reno Stead Airport, Reno, Nevada. The airplane was registered to Aero-Trans Corp, Ocala, Florida, and operated by the pilot as Race 177 under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. The commercial pilot sustained fatal injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. Casualties on the ground included 10 fatalities and 74 injured. As of the time of this preliminary report, eight of the injured remain hospitalized, some in critical condition. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed for the local air race flight, which departed from Reno Stead Airport about 10 minutes before the accident.

The airplane was participating in the Reno National Championship Air Races in the last event of the day. The airplane had completed several laps and was in a steep left turn towards the home pylon when, according to photographic evidence, the airplane suddenly banked momentarily to the left before banking to the right, turning away from the race course, and pitching to a steep nose-high attitude. Witnesses reported and photographic evidence indicates that a piece of the airframe separated during these maneuvers. After roll and pitch variations, the airplane descended in an extremely nose-low attitude and collided with the ground in the box seat area near the center of the grandstand seating area.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration examined the wreckage on site. They documented the debris field and identified various components of the airplane’s control system and control surfaces. The wreckage was removed to a secure storage facility for detailed examination at a later date.

The airplane’s ground crew noted that the airplane had a telemetry system that broadcast data to a ground station as well as recorded it to a box on board the airplane. The crew provided the ground station telemetry data, which includes engine parameters and global positioning satellite system data to the NTSB for analysis. The onboard data box, which sustained crush damage, was sent to the NTSB’s Vehicle Recorder laboratory for examination. Investigators recovered pieces of a camera housing and multiple detached memory cards from the airplane’s onboard camera that were in the debris field. The memory cards and numerous still and video image recordings were also sent to the Vehicle Recorders laboratory for evaluation.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the Reno Air Race Association are parties to the investigation.

Chopper may be grounded. (New Zealand)

SHAKY HEIGHTS: The northern Electricity Rescue Helicopter service anxiously awaits the outcome of a funding review by the Northland Regional Council.

The northern area will find out shortly if it will lose substantial funding for its Electricity Rescue Helicopter service, which could put it in jeopardy.

The Northland Regional Council is waiting on a due diligence report on the Northland Emergency Services Trust (NEST), owner of the two rescue helicopters covering the Far North, Whangarei, and Kaipara and Mangawhai regions, before deciding if it will continue to extend its commitment to the service.

If the council pulls out, the trust may find it difficult to maintain services, NEST chairman and council deputy chairman John Bain says.

With an annual turnover of $5.5 million, the trust relied heavily on a Northland Regional Council levy of $8.56 annually on each of its ratepayers, which has brought between $500,000 and $600,000 to NEST each year for the past two years.

Half of the operating costs funding comes from contributions, including from the council, Accident Compensation Corporation, Ministry of Health and Top Energy and Northpower, with fundraising and grants making up the remainder.

But several months ago there were calls for a due diligence investigation to be undertaken on the council's contribution, with the results due to be presented within days.

One of the councillors who called for the inquiry, Kaipara representative Graeme Ramsey, says while he has no concerns over a service Northland clearly needs, the council has a duty to look into the trust.

"Ratepayers are investing a substantial amount into the service and we have a duty of care to ensure NEST is being appropriately run and managed."

The service not only can ill afford to lose council funding, but increasing demands mean the trust has to urgently seek additional funds, Mr Bain says.

Former Kaipara representative and council chairman Mark Farnsworth was instrumental in the levy being introduced while in office. The Mangawhai resident says he is disappointed he simply wasn't asked about the set up, rather than the council calling for a due diligence inquiry.

"The service is critical to the north and needs a stable, reliable base rather than relying on hand-to-mouth fundraising. I can't understand why the new council is even considering dropping it," he says.

Mr Bain says: "This would have to be the busiest rescue helicopter operation in the North Island. There is no doubt our workload is climbing. We expect our patient numbers to lift by almost 6 percent in the next year which will push our annual flights to more than 700."

The two helicopters attend and transport victims of medical emergencies, road crashes, and search and rescue operations up to more than 300km out to sea.

"We already run on a shoestring," Mr Bain says.

And there's the constant challenge of raising funds from businesses and individuals to cover an area nearly three times that of the Auckland region, but with just one-tenth the population. The service is credited with saving 1700 lives since its inception in 1988.

Inquiry results will coincide with the newly launched 2011 Electricity Rescue Helicopter Appeal to raise $300,000.

Donations to the northern service can be made by visiting any Northland ASB Bank or making a one-off online payment to ERH Appeal – ASB Bank Account No: 12 3106 0046000 00.

- Rodney Times

Dover, Delaware: Locals react with mix of empathy, criticism to news of Dover Air Force Base’s handling of human remains

Residents of greater Dover generally agree that Dover Air Force Base can learn from the mistakes made in the handling of the remains of U.S. Troops.

They readily recognize that Dover Air Force Base is one the largest and most important employers in Kent County, ranking up there with the state of Delaware and the Capital and Caesar Rodney school districts.

So, they had a mixture of empathy and criticism when they heard the news that Dover Air Force base officials had gotten into trouble for losing some body parts of fallen U.S. troopers.

Dover Air Force Base’s mortuary receives the bodies of servicemen killed in battle and prepares them for burial. The mortuary was investigated after three whistleblowers, employees of the Air Force, came forward with claims of improper preparations of remains of a deceased Marine, improper handling and transport of possibly contagious remains and the failure to resolve cases of missing body parts in 2009.

On Tuesday, federal officials released scathing reports that described the “gross mismanagement” that led to missing body parts of two servicemen. The U.S. Air Force also reported that a bone on the arm of a U.S. Marine had been sawed off in order to fit him into his service uniform.

“It’s very sad, very sad,” Dover resident Rosemarie VanDorpe said after lunch on West Loockerman Street. “They do so much good. I hope this doesn’t overshadow the 99.9 percent of the good things they do.

“They’re a vital part of the community,” she said. “See to it that those responsible are reprimanded, and let’s put it behind us.”

Don Parks, also walking about on Loockerman Street, said he was irritated that the story was getting so much play in the media.

“If somebody was wrong, they’ve already been punished because this happened in 2009,” Parks said. “Why bring it up now if it’s already been taken care of, unless somebody has an ax to grind.

“Why did it hit the papers at all?” said Parks, whose daughter is in the Army and whose son is in the Navy. “The military has a way of taking care of issues of that – not that we’re trying to hide anything. When you look at how many bodies come through that base on a daily basis, they do a tremendous job out there 24-7.”

Dover resident Olga Morell, strolling with her dog at Silver Lake Park, said she could understand why the families of slain troops would be upset at the revelations.

“They’re young people that go out there for us, for freedom, to serve the country,” Morell said. “I only have one child and he was in the service. If anything had happened to him, I would have been devastated. He went to Germany for three years. Thank God he came back OK.”

California Man Accuses Southwest Flight Attendant of Assault.

A California man says he was assaulted by a flight attendant during an Oct. 24 flight from Denver to Sacramento, reports. 

Nicholas Lollis told the station in an email that the flight attendant punched and shoved him during the flight. A crime report taken later indicated that Lollis sustained visible bruising on his leg.

Lollis, 46, who was a DJ at a now-defunct Sacramento radio station, identified the flight attendant as Ron Gibson, the station reported. According to the report, a person by the same name had been fired by Southwest Airlines in 2007 due to alleged misconduct at a Las Vegas hotel. But Gibson reportedly challenged the firing and was hired again. It is unclear if it's the same person, the station reported.

Southwest, meanwhile, issued a statement to the station, saying, "While we can't comment specifically on pending legal allegations, both our internal reports and a customer witness account paint a stark contrast to Mr. Lollis' claims. We strive to provide outstanding care for all of our customers, and our reports indicate that our employee did just that in this particular case."

Problems force some flight cancellations at Cherry Capital Airport (KTVC), Traverse City, Michigan.

TRAVERSE CITY — An equipment problem and rainy conditions resulted in several flight cancellations at Cherry Capital Airport.

Airport director Kevin Klein said the instrument landing system operated by the Federal Aviation Administration for the airport’s main east-west runway malfunctioned Tuesday afternoon.

ILS equipment is used by aircraft to land in low visibility conditions and Klein said some scheduled flights were unable to land in Traverse City because of low cloud ceilings and limited visibility created by the rain the past two days. Other flights weren’t affected.

“It’s an antenna issue,” Klein said. “If the weather’s a great day, it doesn’t make a difference.”

Klein said four flights into Cherry Capital were cancelled Tuesday afternoon, four more were cancelled by mid-Wednesday and other flight cancellations were possible depending on weather conditions.

The FAA awaits repair parts to arrive from Oklahoma and Klein said the agency hopes to have the system operating by 3 p.m. Thursday.

Bemidji's aviation provider to change, but public should be unaffected. Bemidji Regional Airport (KBJI), Minnesota.

SkyWest is likely going to be providing commercial air service to Bemidji. But the change should not affect the public.

Harold Van Leeuwen, the airport manager, reports that SkyWest will provide air service to Bemidji as a Delta Connect partner and that to the public there will be no interruption or viable change in service.

The traveling public will still book through Delta and have Delta flights, Van Leeuwen said.

Delta this summer announced its plans to drop flights in 24 small cities as it sought a subsidy from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the Essential Air Service program.

That contract now is poised to go to SkyWest, according to Van Leeuwen. Contracts must be approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation and are not yet finalized.

Van Leeuwen expects that SkyWest, headquartered in St. George, Utah, would run two commercial flights a day between Bemidji and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in a 50-seat jet.

The airline also is open to the possibility of a third flight, which is what Delta now provides, Van Leeuwen noted.

Van Leeuwen’s comments came during a press conference on Minnesota aviation as think-tank Minnesota 2020 released its new report, “Holding Pattern: Problems and Progress in Rural Aviation.” The 20-page report, available online at, discusses the current state of aviation in Minnesota and offers solutions to rebalance air service throughout the state.

Aviation brings more than $12 billion to the state’s economy, making up nearly 5 percent, according to the report.

“Aviation is a key industry in Minnesota,” said Minnesota 2020 senior fellow Matt Entenza.

But the bulk of the economic activity is occurring at the state’s three international airports – MSP, Duluth and Rochester.

Delta’s summer announcement left commercial air service in five Minnesota cities – Bemidji, Brainerd, Thief River Falls, International Falls and Hibbing – up in the air. Another city, St. Cloud, already was abandoned by Delta two years ago.

“Commercial aviation is absolutely critical” to the Bemidji economy, Van Leeuwen said, noting that multiple businesses rely on transportation availability.

SkyWest, he said, is poised to receive a $1.7 million subsidy from the EAS to ensure the continuation of commercial air service, which is a requirement of current EAS rules.

The possibility of expanding from two flights a day to three flights a day shows that SkyWest expects to do well in Bemidji, Van Leeuwen said, noting that Bemidji was profitable for Delta.

In an event separate from the Minnesota 2020 press conference, Van Leeuwen and six civic leaders from the region met Monday with Christopher Roy, Minnesota’s director of aeronautics, to discuss air service success in Bemidji.

Joining Van Leeuwen were Jim Benson, chairman of “Bemidji Leads!”; Dave Hengel, director of community stewardship development for the Headwaters Regional Development Commission; Bemidji Mayor Dave Larson; John Chattin, city manager; and two representatives from Concordia Language Villages.

They emphasized to Roy that Bemidji is unique, Van Leeuwen said. They were not arguing that the community needs commercial air service, but rather saying that it is a success.

Bemidji’s location in north central Minnesota has 110,000 residents within 60 minutes of the community, Van Leeuwen said. The community also has a high number of airport users with Sanford Health, Bemidji State University and government employees, as well as CLV visitors.

Further, he said, the airport contributes to the Bemidji economy as well.

In the eight years that he has led the airport, it has undergone nearly $19 million in improvements to its runways, taxiways, and, most recently, its terminal.

The terminal project was funded, at more than 90 percent, by federal funds, he said, and provided jobs to 82 local workers (within 30 miles of Bemidji).