Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mokulele Announces Full Restoration of Flight Operations

PHOENIX, Dec 11, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Mokulele Flight Service, Inc. announces the full restoration of scheduled flight operations as of December 12, 2011. Mokulele voluntarily suspended operations temporarily to permit the Company to complete an internal records audit. Having fully resolved the records review, the Company immediately resumed operations.

"We deeply regret the inconvenience that this service disruption caused to our valued customers," said Ron Hansen, Chief Executive of Mokulele Airlines. "Our staff worked tirelessly to return our fleet to full operations as quickly as possible and we received the support and expertise of our code share partner Mesa Airlines operating as go!," continued Hansen.

Passengers holding tickets on Mokulele flights should expect their flight to operate as scheduled. Passengers interested in booking flight should visit or call (888) 435-9462. Mokulele operates 44 flights daily throughout Hawaii.

SOURCE: Mokulele Flight Service, Inc.

Mokulele Flight Service, Inc.
Sean Alvarez
Director of Passenger Service
Mokulele Airlines

South Dakota: Robotics competition carries on after fatal plane crash. Cessna 421C Golden Eagle, N421SY

One day after the deaths of three leaders in the South Dakota Robotics Association, Rapid City children, parents and adult volunteers paid tribute by carrying on their mission.

“These men were an inspiration to all of us, and we felt that they would want us to carry on,” said Kurt Ronning, the west region coordinator for the South Dakota Lego robotics league. “This is in recognition of them.”

Pilot Brian Blake and passengers Daniel Swets, Kevin Anderson and Joshua Lambrecht died Friday when their charter plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Sioux Falls. The three passengers, volunteer officials with the burgeoning youth Lego robotics league, were traveling to Rapid City to train coaches for a group practice session scheduled for Saturday.

Despite Friday’s tragedy, Saturday’s practice session went on as scheduled at Meadowbrook Elementary.

Adult leaders told the assembled children about the deaths Saturday morning but didn’t dwell on the incident. After that brief announcement, the children went on with what they had planned on doing -- building and programming robots to complete an obstacle course.

“It is really sad. It’s kind of a cloud over the competition. But I think for these kids, things still have to move on,” said Susan Oleson, whose son is on one of the local Lego teams. “Of course everyone here is thinking about the tragedy and has those families in our thoughts and in our prayers.”

The Lego robotics competition is organized by a national group, U.S. FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The South Dakota Robotics Association is the local affiliate of U.S. FIRST.

U.S. FIRST is prepared to offer assistance to the South Dakota Lego league in the aftermath of Friday’s deaths, spokesman Dennis Garrigan said.

Many people at the U.S. FIRST headquarters knew the victims, particularly Swets, and are still in shock, he said.

“Our hearts and sympathies go out to (Swets’) wife and family, the FIRST Lego League community in South Dakota, and to all the passengers on the plane with Dan,” Garrigan said.

Garrigan said U.S. FIRST is considering appropriate tributes and memorials for Friday’s victims.

In Lego robotics competitions, teams of students build a robot using Lego bricks, and use Lego’s Mindstorms software to program the robot to complete tasks on an obstacle course.

Children working with the Lego robotics learn teamwork, programming and problem-solving skills, among other talents.

Swets, Anderson and Lambrecht had worked with local coaches and organizers but not with the children. That made Friday’s crash easier news for the kids to accept, coaches said.

“It’s a very sad thing, but our students had not been involved with those people at all. To them, it’s an abstract thing, for the most part,” said Georgia Simon, the mother of a student on one of the Lego robotics teams as well as a team coach.

At Saturday’s practice, the students worked on their robots unconcerned by Friday’s accident. Ethan Stebbins, 11, said he enjoyed having to use trial and error -- “I think more errors than trials” – to solve difficult problems. Cameron Buuck, 12, liked learning how to program the robot.

That kind of learning was what Swets, Anderson and Lambrecht were devoted to, said Alan Swanson, a founder of the South Dakota FIRST Lego League.

“They believed strongly in bringing science and technology to the students of South Dakota,” Swanson said. “They were eager to do that across the state.”

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Arab uprisings reshape map of U.S. influence

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—About 18 months before the Egyptian uprising that would doom Hosni Mubarak, a U.S. diplomatic cable was sent from Cairo. It described Mubarak as the likely president-for-life and said his regime's ability to intimidate critics and rig elections was as solid as ever.

Around the same time, another dispatch to the State Department came from the American Embassy in Tunisia. In a precise foreshadowing of the revolts to come, it said the country's longtime leader, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, had "lost touch" and faced escalating anger from the streets, according to once-classified memos posted by Wikileaks.

So what was it? Was America blindsided or bunkered down for the Arab Spring?

The case is often made that Washington was caught flatfooted and now must adapt to diminished influence in a Middle East with new priorities. But there is an alternative narrative: that the epic events of 2011 are an opportunity to enhance Washington's role in a region hungry for democracy and innovation, and to form new strategic alliances.

There is no doubt that Washington was jolted by the downfall of its Egyptian and Tunisian allies. The revolutions blew apart the regimes' ossified relationships with the U.S. and cleared the way for long-suppressed Islamist groups that eye the West with suspicion.

But declaring a twilight for America in the Mideast ignores a big caveat: The Persian Gulf. There are deep U.S. connections among the small but economically powerful and diplomatically adept monarchies, emirates and sheikdoms, which so far have ridden out the upheavals and are increasingly flexing their political clout around the Arab world.

The Gulf Arabs and America are, in many ways, foreign policy soul mates. Both share grave misgivings about Iran's expanding military ambitions and its nuclear program. The Gulf hosts crucial U.S. military bases -- including the Navy's 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain -- and is an essential part of the Pentagon's strategic blueprint for the Mideast after this year's U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

In summary: America's influence took blows from the Arab Spring, but also remains hitched to the rising stars in the Gulf.

"America has lost the predictability of friends like Mubarak," said Sami Alfaraj, director of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies. "But, at the same time, its allies in the Gulf are on the rise. So I would call it a shuffle for America. Maybe a step back in some places, but not in others."

Led by hyper-wealthy Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Gulf rulers have stepped up their games in various ways as the region's political center of gravity drifts in their direction.

NATO's airstrikes in Libya got important Arab credibility from warplane contributions by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf's six-nation political bloc also has tried to negotiate an exit for Yemen's protest-battered president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and has taken the lead in Arab pressures on Syria's Bashar Assad, one of Iran's most crucial partners.

Yet the Gulf rulers' desire for change stops at their own borders. In March, they authorized a Saudi-led military force to help their neighbor, Bahrain, defend its 200-year-old unelected Sunni dynasty against pro-reform protests by the island's Shiite majority.

And here lies one of the paradoxes for U.S. statecraft in the Middle East: to align with rulers who are firmly vested in the status quo, but not be cast as the spoilers of the Arab uprisings.

"No one is immune from the waves of change," said Nicholas Burns, a former No. 3 official at the State Department. "There's certainly an effort to advise the Gulf Arabs to continue to get on the side of reform."

Burns believes the Arab Spring has taught U.S. diplomats valuable lessons in patience and perspective.

"We are witnessing something that is transformative and whose full impact will play out over years, maybe decades, ahead," said Burns, a professor of diplomacy and international politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "Here is one of those times when the U.S. has to not overact and overreact."

But when events move fast, that may not be the easiest advice to follow. Mubarak was a loyal guardian of Egypt's groundbreaking 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and there is no certainty that whoever succeeds him will do likewise. Meanwhile, the Palestinians have overridden U.S. objections and asked the U.N. for statehood.

"Our ability to influence is limited today more than at any time in the last 35 years," said Graeme Bannerman, a former State Department analyst on Mideast affairs, at a conference in November co-sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace.

That assessment may have some traction in places such as in Tunisia or Egypt, where the U.S. is widely viewed as tainted by its long alliance with Mubarak.

But ask about America's pull in other Mideast points -- the free-spending Gulf, the new proto-state in Libya, even slow-healing Iraq and its Iran-friendly government -- and the conversation is different. It is more measured about how the U.S. fits into the new Mideast. There is more talk about the arc of history rather than the latest sound bite.

"It's too early to tell whether U.S. influence has diminished or indeed any change will happen because the Arab Spring is still in process," said Nawaf Tell, former director of the University of Jordan Strategic Studies Center.

Tell sees the Arab Spring as the death rattle of the Arab revolutions and coups defined by the all-powerful state and embodied by winner-take-all leaders: Egypt's Gamal Abdel-Nasser (1954), Libya's Moammar Gadhafi (1969), the 1970 putsch in Syria that brought Hafez Assad to power in Syria and now a dynasty-in-peril under his son, Bashar, and so on.

"These regimes have exhausted their revolutionary credibility and have seen their legitimacy go bankrupt," Tell said. And as with any big unraveling, there are new rules in the aftermath."

This may mean a less privileged position for U.S. interests and more legwork for Washington's envoys, said Morris Reid, managing director of the Washington-based BGR Group, which works often in liaison roles between Mideast officials and U.S. companies.

The U.S. approach to the region "will be better," he said. "Not necessarily stronger."

"The U.S. will have to work harder for intelligence, diplomatic relations, commercial deals," said Reid after meetings in mid-November at the Dubai Airshow, where Boeing Co. made a slew of deals including a record $18 billion order from the fast-growing air carrier Emirates. "The U.S. will now have to prove their value as allies."

A showcase for that in the coming year is likely to be Iraq, and the contest for influence between neighboring Iran and the U.S. after U.S. military forces are gone. That rivalry in turn is influenced by events in Syria, Iran's main Arab ally, and the concerns of emirates and sheikdoms that lie just across the Persian Gulf from Iran.

"Look at it this way: If you accept that the Arab Spring is a once in a four- or five-generations moment, then, of course, it will reorder the entire game of influence and politics by the big powers," said Salman Shaikh, director of The Brookings Doha Center in Qatar.

"U.S. leadership does matter," he continued. "It's naive to say it will become irrelevant. But it's also wrong not to notice that America's era as the region's diplomatic superpower is coming to an end. The Arab Spring has brought much more independent-minded diplomacy by nations and a new empowerment among Arab people. America is a big player, but no longer Big Brother."

Iran says it will not return US drone

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran will not return a U.S. surveillance drone captured by its armed forces, a senior commander of the country's elite Revolutionary Guard said Sunday.

Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy head of the Guard, said in remarks broadcast on state television that the violation of Iran's airspace by the U.S. drone was a "hostile act" and warned of a "bigger" response. He did not elaborate on what Tehran might do.

"No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country," Salami said.

Iranian television broadcast video Thursday of Iranian military officials inspecting what it identified as the RQ-170 Sentinel drone.

Iranian state media have said the unmanned spy aircraft was detected over the eastern town of Kashmar, some 140 miles (225 kilometers) from the border with Afghanistan. U.S. officials have acknowledged losing the drone.

Salami called its capture a victory for Iran and a defeat for the U.S. in a complicated intelligence and technological battle.

"Iran is among the few countries that possesses the most modern technology in the field of pilotless drones. The technology gap between Iran and the U.S. is not much," he said.

Officers in the Guard, Iran's most powerful military force, had previously claimed that the country's armed forces brought down the surveillance aircraft with an electronic ambush, causing minimum damage to the drone.

American officials have said that U.S. intelligence assessments indicate that Iran neither shot the drone down, nor used electronic or cybertechnology to force it from the sky. They contend the drone malfunctioned. The officials had spoken anonymously in order to discuss the classified program.

But Salami refused to provide more details of Iran's claim to have captured the CIA-operated aircraft.

"A party that wins in an intelligence battle doesn't reveal its methods. We can't elaborate on the methods we employed to intercept, control, discover and bring down the pilotless plane," he said.

United Arab Emirates signs air services agreement with Ireland

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates represented by the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has signed an air services Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and initialed an Air Services Agreement (ASA) with the Government of Ireland in Dublin on 8th December 2011.

The agreement was initialed by Saif Al Suwaidi, Director General of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and John Fearon, Director General of Civil Aviation of Ireland. Representatives from Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Sharjah Department of Civil Aviation, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline attended the negotiations.

The two delegations agreed that any number of designated airlines of both parties will have the right to perform scheduled air services.

The MoU allows full flexibility on the routes, capacity, number of frequencies and types of aircraft, in any type of service. In addition, both Parties agreed to allow unrestricted non-scheduled operations between the two countries.

Meanwhile General Civil Aviation Authority’s Airworthiness Consultative Committee (ACC) held its biannual meeting with the participation of industry stakeholders including Air Operators, Aircraft Maintenance Organisations, Design Organizations and Production Organizations.

During the meeting Ahmed Al Rawahi said: “The GCAA considers the industry as a partner in improving safety and gives lots of importance and support to safety initiative of the industry.”

Lockheed says $4 billion F-35 order terms are under negotiation

Lockheed Martin Corp. said it reached agreement with the Pentagon to build as many as 30 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets in the fifth production lot valued at as much as $4 billion.

The final negotiations on the price of the aircraft and other terms are still under negotiation, company spokesman Joseph LaMarca said in a phone interview.

Earlier today, the Pentagon announced that it had awarded a $4 billion order for 30 F-35 jets to the Bethesda, Maryland-based company. The Pentagon statement said the order included 21 Air Force models, six Navy versions and three Marine Corps models of the airplane.

The agreement sets the maximum amount the Pentagon may spend on the production lot and the terms may change until a so-called definitized contract next year, Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein said in an email.

The announcement "is an important first step in paving the way for the full contract negotiations," Rein said.

Lockheed and the Pentagon agreed on an undefinitized contract action, said Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the F-35 program office. The accord will allow Lockheed to continue building advanced parts for the next lot of F-35 jets, he said in a phone interview.

Negotiations on the final terms of the fifth lot are continuing and are expected to be completed in early 2012, DellaVedova said.

Pakistan Says U.S. Vacated Air Base Used for Drone Strikes


Pakistan's military said Sunday that Washington has met its demand to pull U.S. equipment and personnel from an air base in the southwest of the country.

Pakistan demanded the U.S. withdraw from Shamsi air base in Baluchistan province as a retaliatory measure after a North Atlantic Treaty Organization strike late last month killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The U.S. had used Shamsi to operate drone strikes against Taliban militants sheltering in the tribal regions on the frontier with Afghanistan, according to Pakistani defense officials.

The U.S. already had scaled back operations at the base this summer due to Pakistani demands to do so, these officials said.

The expulsion from Shamsi is more symbolic than a meaningful attempt to halt the drone attacks, which have killed scores of Taliban and al Qaeda militants.

The U.S. has continued the covert program, which is run by the Central Intelligence Agency, from bases in Afghanistan, despite the wind-down at Shamsi begun this summer.

But another Pakistan retaliatory measure for the NATO air strikes — shutting key NATO supply routes through Pakistan — is likely to pose a greater threat to U.S. interests in the region, U.S. officials say.

Pakistan has given no indication of when it will lift the blockade. NATO sends about half of its supplies for its soldiers in Afghanistan via two Pakistani land routes.

If the shut-down lasts much longer, affecting key supplies of fuel, it could begin to hurt NATO's campaign in Afghanistan, U.S. officials have said.

Anti-U.S. sentiment has been on the rise this year due to the drone program, which is unpopular with many people, and the covert U.S. raid on a Pakistani garrison town in May that killed Osama bin Laden.

After the NATO raid on Nov. 26, Pakistan gave the U.S. 15 days to fully vacate Shamsi. The "last flight carrying leftover US Personnel and Equipment departed Shamsi Base today and the Base has been completely vacated," Pakistan's military said in a statement Sunday. "The control of the Base has been taken over by the Army."

Attempts to contact a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad were not successful.

Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith Taken Off Plane With Chest Pains

Dec 11, 2011 - Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith had to be taken off the team's charter plane after experiencing chest pains, according to a report on Sunday night. The Falcons were preparing to head home after a win over the Carolina Panthers earlier in the day when Smith began experiencing the chest pains. He was taken to a local hospital for tests, but did not suffer a heart attack, the team said.

The report comes from Peter King of Sports Illustrated. The string of tweets is as follows.

Atlanta coach Mike Smith ushered off charter home from Charlotte, taken to hospital for chest pain. Not heart attack, club says. "Everything came out negative with the tests,'' GM Thomas Dimitroff tells me. "Mike is in good spirits." Owner Arthur Blank sending plane from Atlanta to Charlotte to transport Smith, Dimitroff back to Georgia. Should be back by 2 am. I've known Dimitroff for quite a while; he was very optimistic about Smith's health tonight. Smith plans to be at coaches' meeting Mon at 4.

Pilot killed in plane crash in Fayette County, Tennessee.

FAYETTE COUNTY, TN - We now know the name of the pilot killed when his ultra light crashed in Fayette County. 50-year-old Byron Moore of Cordova had more than 10 years of flying experience.

Investigators say Moore was testing some changes he made to the plane, when it crashed into a field Sunday, December 11, 2011, around 1:30 p.m. It happened just off Yum Yum Road, north of Somerville.

Witnesses say Moore's ultralight had just cleared some trees about 100 feet up, when it suddenly dove into the ground, nose first.

Those witnesses pulled the pilot out of the plane before it caught on fire, but it was too late --- Moore had already died.

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board will arrive in Fayette County Monday to investigate the crash.
FAYETTE COUNTY, TN - The NTSB is investigating a small plane crash in Fayette County that killed a pilot Sunday afternoon.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the small plane to go down.

Fayette County resident Jackie McIntosh said she never imagined a plane would come crashing down in a field near her home.  She said she had just seen the pilot moments before the plane took off.

"There were two guys standing there," said McIntosh.  "It's quite a ways away, so I couldn't really see who it was, but they were looking at the engine."

Investigators said the ultra light plane, also known as a kit plane, crashed in the field in the 5800 block of Yum Yum Road while the pilot was doing some tests.  The plane had already taken off and landed several times during the day.

"They had put several flight hours on the plane today and had been working on some modifications on the plane," said Inspector Ray Garcia with the Fayette County Sheriff's Office.  "The plane had taken off, cleared a tree line, then nose-dived into the ground."

As the plane went up in flames, neighbors rushed in to try to help the pilot, who was alone aboard the aircraft.

"Several of the landowners were able to get the pilot out of the plane," said Garcia.  "The pilot was deceased on the scene."

Members of the FAA and NTSB were notified to look further into the cause of the crash.

Authorities have not yet released the name of the pilot.

Action News 5's Jamel Major captured this video of the scene where the plane crashed Sunday.

General Dynamics CEO sets sights on further growth, acquisitions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The defense budget is shrinking, but General Dynamics Corp still sees growing demand for its combat vehicles and warships, coupled with unprecedented opportunities to sell its popular Gulfstream business jets in China and other emerging markets.

Chief Executive Jay Johnson, a former F-14 fighter pilot and chief of naval operations, shies away from phrases like "off the charts," but his steep hand gesture depicts a bright future for the commercial aerospace sector, and he's not too worried about the defense outlook, at least for now.

In fact, tighter U.S. defense budgets will generate good acquisition opportunities for General Dynamics in coming years, Johnson told Reuters in a rare interview at the company's headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia.

"We don't have time to wring our hands. For us it's all about performing for the customer and delivering to the shareholder," says Johnson, who said the company remained committed to paying strong dividends, but would also keep enough cash on hand to take advantage of possible acquisitions.

The company's strategy seems to be paying off, with Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway recently making a significant investment in GD after selling its stake 10 years ago.

"It's the Warren Buffett seal of approval, which I think counts for a lot," he said. Buffett has not disclosed the size of his holding, he said.

U.S. defense companies are scrambling to cut costs and find alternate revenue sources as they brace for a big decline in spending after a decade of double digit growth.

Many analysts consider GD the best-positioned company in the sector, given the mix of its weapons expertise and red-hot prospects for its Gulfstream business, which already has 200 orders for the new GS650 jet entering service next year.


Analysts expect General Dynamics, one of the five largest U.S. arms makers, to boost revenues by about $1 billion to over $33 billion in 2011, with sales growing modestly over the next two years. Revenues will be buoyed by an order backlog of over $58 billion and rising international sales.

"We still will generate considerable earnings and cash in the defense space," said Johnson, noting GD would benefit from continued demand for upgrades to tanks and other ground combat vehicles, even as U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq.

Demand from military commanders would ensure continued shipbuilding sales "as far as the eye can see," said Johnson, who met with top Navy officials in Hawaii last month on the sideline of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.

GD is one of two builders of Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines, and recently won praise from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for building the latest submarine, the USS Mississippi for $50 million below target and a year ahead of schedule.

The company is also "very excited" about the prospects for its commercial aerospace division, Johnson said, adding that demand from emerging markets was fueling growth "in a way that I don't think we've ever seen before."

In time, the division could generate about 30 percent of revenues, up from 20 percent now, Johnson said.

Analysts say GD's earnings potential is excellent, given growing demand from China and other emerging markets for its Gulfstream jets, which Morgan Stanley analyst Heidi Wood calls "one of the world's sexiest and most respected brands."

GD has forecast that operating earnings from commercial aerospace could grow to over 35 to 40 percent of company-wide operating earnings in the next five years, from 20 percent now. Wood says they could reach as high as 50 percent.

Not surprisingly, Johnson said he has no plans to sell Gulfstream, despite repeated suggestions from outsiders that the company should sell the unit to monetize its success.

In fact, GD plans to invest about $500 million in the Savannah, Georgia plant where it builds the jets, and just opened a new business office in Beijing on December 7.

Although Johnson says analysts are "just gaga" about Gulfstream's prospects, he prefers a more measured approach, especially since GD still has to establish relationships in new countries for long-term maintenance of the business jets. "I don't like overdriving our headlights," he says.


At the same time, Johnson says declining defense spending could generate interesting acquisition opportunities for GD, and the company is keeping sufficient cash on hand to pounce if it sees good prospects in cyber security, health care information technology (IT), intelligence or aerospace.

GD in August acquired Vangent, a health care IT company that together with an existing unit, will make the company a top tier provider in that sector, Johnson said.

Johnson said GD would use its cash reserves to find companies like Vangent that fit with or enhance an existing business area, or allow it to more into an adjacent area.

He declined to give details on how large of a deal might be considered, but said he did not expect mergers and acquisition activity to involve top tier companies, at least for now.

At the same time, GD is continually looking for ways to restructure, divest and save money in other ways, Johnson said. Already lean and decentralized, the company has fewer than 200 people at its leased corporate headquarters site.

For now, Johnson said he was happy with that structure, and the 13 separate business units GD has, but he said there could those structures could change in the future, if it made sense.

As GD braces for defense cuts, Johnson is drawing on his experiences overseeing the last downturn in defense spending while serving as chief of naval operations from 1996 to 2000.

Back then, Johnson strongly backed the E/F variant of the Boeing Co F/A-18 fighter jet to ensure that the Navy had sufficient fighters for its carriers, rather than waiting for the development of the Joint Strike Fighter, a new fighter being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp .

Johnson says he expects Pentagon officials to pursue a similar approach this time around, with more money to flow into upgrades and incremental improvements than into new programs.

The Pentagon has already canceled one big GD program to develop a new amphibious vehicle, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle or EFV, for the Marine Corps, and it may delay work on two new Army vehicle programs that GD had hoped to bid for.

There has been some talk of the Navy slowing work on development of a replacement for the strategic Ohio-class of nuclear submarines, but Johnson said he expects that program to continue, albeit possibly at a slower pace.

He said Panetta understands how devastating wholesale program cuts would be for the industrial base, and will keep those issues in mind. "Mr. Panetta gets it," he said.

Aviation centre marks birthday

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre shared its toys with the public at its fifth birthday celebration on Saturday.

Centre manager Jane Orphan said visitors to the centre were given half-price admission, while more than a dozen planes were rolled from their hangars for people to have a look at.

It was a nice day for members to enjoy, and a barbecue was fired up for the low-key celebrations and socialising between members and the public, she said.

The Nieuport 11 biplane buzzed the airfield and Blenheim. The Boeing Stearman World War II trainer went up too.

The centre plans to offer joy rides in the Stearman and was finalising the Civil Aviation Authority requirements, Mrs Orphan said.

Unfortunately, the Sopwith Pup World War I Allied fighter did not get the CAA tick in time for the day, but ran its original 1917 rotary engine on the ground instead, she said.

The privately-owned biplane was ready to fly and would be based at Omaka, which was great, she said.

The centre's logo featured the Sopwith so it was special that it could be brought out for the birthday celebrations, she said.

The Focke Wulf FW190 also missed the chance to fly, as the CAA had not signed it off either.

The Word War II German fighter had to be repaired after it was damaged during its first public outing in New Zealand at the Easter weekend Omaka Classic Fighters Airshow. It got its engine going for the visitors as well.

"We may hear it over the town sometime soon," Mrs Orphan said.

Also displayed on the ground was a Bristol fighter biplane, which flew late in World War I and into the 1930s.

Mrs Orphan hoped the centre would be able to hold open days with flying aircraft and displays on the field every two months or so from now on.

"It's so nice to be able to line up aircraft on the field. It's not just a static museum; you've got all these people who are keen one heritage aircraft and who are happy to bring them out and display them for the public."

More than 130,000 people had visited the aviation centre since it opened, she said.

"We're thrilled about that, it's going really well, numbers are increasing, the current year has been one of the best years and we're hoping it's going to go from strength to strength."

Air New Zealand's Christmas cheer in the air for Christchurch

Air New Zealand is planning to turn one of its 777-200ER aircraft into a unique Christmas "sleigh" for the children of Christchurch.

The airline will deck out its long-haul aircraft with Christmas cheer and gift it to the kids of Christchurch to experience a special scenic flight down to the majestic Aoraki Mt Cook area and back.

The "Christmas Cheer in the Air" service will carry around 150 young Cantabrians accompanied by a parent or guardian on the one-hour round trip.

Air New Zealand is working with several media partners including The Press, Classic Hits and Newstalk ZB Christchurch to help gift the seats to families in Canterbury, with promotions starting on Monday 12 December

Energy supplier Z is helping out by providing the fuel while Christchurch International Airport is waiving landing fees.

Air New Zealand's Chief Pilot David Morgan says the 777-200ER will be on a day's layover in Christchurch so the airline wanted to grab the opportunity to do something special for the community.

"What immediately sprung to mind was a fun and unique flight experience that we could offer to the kids of Canterbury given the incredibly tough year they've just been through. With Christmas just around the corner it felt like a special gift that we could offer.

"The immediate support for the flight from the Canterbury community has been fantastic with our suppliers and local media outlets jumping in boots and all to make it happen."

The flight will depart from Air New Zealand's Technical Operations base near Christchurch airport on Tuesday 20 December at 12.45pm.

Captain Morgan will pilot the special service and those travelling on the flight will also have the rare opportunity to accompany him on his pre-flight walk around the aircraft.

As well as opportunities to enter competitions for a seat on the flight through The Press, Classic Hits and Newstalk ZB Christchurch, Air New Zealand will also fill the Business Premier cabin at the front of the aircraft with children selected by Koru Care.

"We're planning to make it a really memorable experience for the kids involved and hope also to have some familiar faces make an appearance during the festivities," says Captain Morgan.

As Maine Air Guard age limit increased to 40, more fathers join up

BANGOR, Maine — When airmen Mark Johnson and Daniel Shunk went to basic training they were surrounded by people half their age.

“I was old enough to be their father,” said Johnson, who was 38 when he joined the Maine Air National Guard last year and was shipped away to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for basic training.

“I was lying in the bunk thinking, ‘What have I got myself into?’” he recalled about his first night in uniform.

“I immediately got the nickname ‘Papa Shunk’” at basic training, said Shunk, who became a soldier at the age of 35.

Johnson and Shunk both were able to join the Air National Guard after its age limit increased in mid-2009 from 34 to 40.

Both said they felt a calling to serve in the military — to serve their country — as young men, but life pulled them a different direction.

When the age limit was changed, they both decided it was now or never.

“I truly have wanted to serve since high school, really, to give back,” Shunk said. “I always wanted to step up and serve.”

Johnson said he feels like “everybody should do their part,” and that included him.

Master Sgt. John Cyr, a Maine Air Guard recruiting supervisor, said the number of older recruits walking through his door is still fairly low but is increasing.

“It’s not completely rare, but it’s becoming more common,” he said. “We’re having more and more people over 30.”

The benefits of joining the Maine Air Guard are that you’re in the military serving your country and are stationed right here in Bangor serving with the 101st Air Refueling Wing, Cyr said, adding “most people stay in until they retire.”

There are other Air Guard units in Augusta and South Portland.

Johnson, who is from Hampden and works for Seacoast Security Alarm Co., finished basic training last summer and was sent directly to technical school. He returned to Maine able to work on the massive generators used by the MAINEics.

The weekend warrior was gone from his family, which includes two daughters, for a total of five months.

“My girls — I missed them the most,” said Johnson, who added another reason he joined up is because the mother of his girls also is a part of the wing. “I saw how well she’s enjoyed it and how they’ve treated her.”

Shunk, who is married with five young children and lives in Searsport, joined on May 11, 2010, and was sent to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. As a citizen soldier he works in information security and is a public speaker teaching Christian apologetics when not in uniform.

Fellow Air Guard recruits, who mostly were under age 20, at first worried Shunk might drag the group down during basic training, but they learned quickly he was prepared physically and mentally.

“They respected the fact we were pulling our load,” he said.

The drill sergeants also used Shunk and Johnson as examples to get the other soldiers to work harder.

“They didn’t want an old man to beat them,” Shunk said.

Both Shunk and Johnson have about a year of service under their belts and have reached the rank of Airman First Class. Both are encouraging others to jump on board.

“It’s a great part-time job,” Johnson said. “You get to travel the world and get paid for it. I’ve already been to Hawaii and they tell me it only gets better.”

The camaraderie with fellow airmen on base is something akin to family, Shunk said.

Maj. Mark Champagne, public affairs officer for the 101st, said all Air National Guard airmen first class are treated the same and “stand shoulder to shoulder with the 18-year-olds” until they demonstrate skills that set them apart.

The older airmen, with their life experience, seem to end up as leaders or mentors, he said.

“They’re [succeeding] out there,” Cyr said. “They’re doing very well. They have the younger rank, but they are lower-ranked leaders.”

For Johnson and Shunk, service is now more than just a word. It is a lifestyle.

“You know you’re making a difference in the big picture,” Shunk said. “It matters, and there is satisfaction in that.”

Van's RV-7A, N724WD: Fatal accident occurred December 10, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona

NTSB Identification: WPR12FA059
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, December 10, 2011 in Surprise, AZ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 06/23/2014
Aircraft: VANS RV7 - A, registration: N724WD
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

The pilot, who was also the owner and builder, was flying his experimental amateur-built airplane powered by a converted automobile engine back to his home airport after a brief personal out-and-back flight. Light winds and daylight visual meteorological conditions prevailed. Radar and GPS data showed that the return portion of the flight followed an essentially straight track in the direction of the pilot’s home airport at an altitude of about 1,500 feet above ground level with a groundspeed of about 100 knots. When the airplane was about 12 miles from the airport, the groundspeed decreased to about 60 knots over a period of about 25 seconds. The airplane then entered a descent of about 800 feet per minute, which it maintained for the next minute. Shortly after the start of that descent, the transponder was switched to the emergency code of 7700. About 25 seconds later, the pilot transmitted a “mayday” call to the approach controller. He stated that he had a problem, and several seconds later, transmitted that he was “going down.” In the radio call, the pilot named the component that he thought was causing the problem, but the transmission quality prevented a positive determination of exactly what the pilot said. The descent rate then increased rapidly, and the airplane impacted terrain several seconds later. 

The damage to the rudder stop, rudder, elevator trim tab link, and elevator trim tab was inconclusive as to whether it occurred in flight or on impact. Propeller damage indicated that the propeller was not rotating or was rotating with little engine power. However, no preimpact mechanical problems with the engine, propeller gearbox, or propeller were identified. 

The reconstructed flight path was consistent with a significant deceleration at a near-constant altitude, followed by a descent to maintain flying speed, followed by a loss of control and/or aerodynamic stall at low altitude, from which the airplane did not recover. The airplane had slowed and started to descend when the pilot took the deliberate actions of squawking 7700 and transmitting a radio distress call. He attempted to describe the problem that he perceived. During that time, the data suggests that the airplane was still controllable and was under control. Shortly thereafter, as evidenced by the significantly increased descent rate and the pilot’s transmission that he was going down, control was lost, and the airplane impacted the ground.

The limited propeller damage, coupled with the engine’s dependence on electricity and its electronics for continued operation, suggest that the deceleration could have been a result of an engine power loss for electrical or electronic reasons that could not be determined during postaccident examination. The specific reason for the stall could not be determined; however, the pilot may have been distracted by the emergency or the radio calls. The investigation was unable to determine the accuracy of the airspeed indicator or stall speed values. Further, the airplane does have a limited natural stall warning and no stall warning system to alert the pilot to an impending stall, particularly if he was distracted.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
An electrical or engine electronic problem, which resulted in a loss of engine power, followed by a low-altitude stall.


On December 10, 2011, about 1258 mountain standard time, an experimental, amateur-built Van's RV7-A, N724WD, was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain near Surprise, Arizona, shortly after the pilot reported a problem in cruise flight. The certificated private pilot, who was also the builder and owner of the airplane, was fatally injured. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight. 

The pilot based the airplane at Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU), Glendale, Arizona, in a hangar that he shared with two other RV owners. According to information provided by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel, the airplane departed GEU about 1226. Luke Air Force Base (LUF), Glendale, was situated about 5 miles west of GEU. Review of LUF ground tracking radar data revealed that the entire flight was captured by the radar system. The LUF radar first acquired the airplane at 1227:27, as it was climbing through an altitude of 1,300 feet above mean sea level (msl), and broadcasting a beacon code of 1200 on its transponder. The airplane flew about 25 miles to the northwest of GEU, maneuvered for a short time, and then began tracking back towards GEU. The flight altitude varied irregularly between about 2,700 and 3,300 feet msl.

About 1255:50, when it was about 12 miles northwest of GEU, the airplane began decelerating from its 100-knot ground speed. The airplane slowed to about 60 knots and began a descent. About 1256:25, when the airplane was at an altitude of 2,500 feet, the first 7700 beacon code return was received. The pilot transmitted a "mayday" call to LUF Approach about 25 seconds later, and stated that he was having a problem and was "going down." No further communications from the airplane were received, and the final radar return was received at 1257:21. 

A flight instructor and a student who were flying in the same vicinity, and operating on the same radio frequency as the accident airplane, heard the pilot's radio communications. No ELT signals were obtained by any aircraft or facilities. The instructor and student were able to visually locate the wreckage, and guided a first responder helicopter to the site about 45 minutes after the accident.

The wreckage was located about 800 feet north of the final radar return, on flat terrain, at an elevation of 1,330 feet. Examination of the wreckage revealed ground scars and damage consistent with a nose-down impact, with little or no horizontal velocity. All aerodynamic surfaces and flight controls were located in the wreckage. Fuel spillage from the right wing tank was observed, but there was no fire. A handheld Garmin GPSMap 296 unit was recovered from the wreckage, and retained for data download.


According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land rating. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued in July 2010, and his most recent flight review was completed in January 2011.

Review of the pilot's flight logbook indicated a total flight experience of about 713 hours. The pilot conducted the first flight and all the FAA Stage 1 testing of the airplane. He accrued about 340 hours in the airplane, over a period of 5 years and 2 months. The logbook annotations only contained one explicit reference to aerodynamic stalls; that reference was dated November 24, 2006. At that time, the pilot had about 21 hours in the airplane. The pilot's flight logbook contained multiple references to mechanical issues that were not included in the airplane maintenance records.

Interviews and/or communications with persons familiar with the pilot's flying habits typically described him as a "straight and level flyer" who did not like stalls, and who did not do aerobatics or other more aggressive style flying. 

The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute conducted forensic toxicology examinations on specimens from the pilot, and reported that no carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, or any screened drugs were detected. According to the Maricopa County Arizona Office of the Medical Examiner, the cause of death was "blunt impact injuries." 


FAA and pilot records indicated that the airplane was built in 2006 by the pilot. Examination of the pilot's airframe maintenance records did not reveal any significant problems with, or maintenance on, the airframe. A hangar mate of the pilot was not aware of any significant or unusual problems with the airplane. 

The airplane was powered by an Eggenfellner conversion of a Subaru EJ-25 series automobile engine. The engine was a 4 cylinder, liquid cooled unit with an electric fuel pump, electronic ignition, and electronic fuel metering. These items were monitored and controlled by the engine control module (ECM), frequently referred to as the engine control unit (ECU). Examination of the pilot's engine maintenance records did not reveal any significant problems with, or maintenance on, the engine. No records containing any age or time in service information for the engine prior to its installation in the airplane were located.

The engine was equipped with Eggenfellner "Generation III" propeller speed reduction unit (PSRU) that reduced the engine output rpm values to values suited to the propeller. Examination of the pilot's engine maintenance records did not reveal any significant problems with the PSRU.

The engine was equipped with a Quinti-Avio propeller hub which provided for electrically-controlled, electrically-driven, in-flight pitch adjustment of the three Warp Drive composite propeller blades. Examination of the pilot's propeller maintenance records did not reveal any significant problems with, or maintenance on, the hub or propeller.


The GEU 1247 automated weather observation included wind from 080 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 20 miles, broken cloud layer at 20,000 feet, temperature 19 degrees C, dew point -7 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.10 inches of mercury. 


The flight departed from GEU, which was equipped with an air traffic control tower (ATCT) that was operating at the time of departure, and for the duration of the flight. However, after takeoff, the airplane departed the local area, and therefore, the pilot was not required to communicate again with the ATCT until he returned to the area. Since the accident occurred prior to the pilot re-contacting the GEU ATCT, no copies of GEU ATCT communications with the airplane were requested or obtained by the investigation.

The bulk of the flight was conducted in the airspace designated as the "Luke Air Force Base Special Air Traffic Rule (SATR) North Area." The SATR was defined by 14CFR 93.176, and 93.177 designated the operating rules. The SATR was depicted on the applicable aeronautical navigation charts. The SATR was not active at the time of the flight, and therefore, the pilot was not required to be, and was not initially, in communication with LUF Approach. 

According to ground tracking radar data obtained from LUF, the pilot squawked 1200 on his transponder for almost the entire flight. At 1256:25, the data indicates that the pilot switched his transponder to 7700, the emergency code. At 1256:53, the pilot made his first call to LUF Approach with the transmission "Luke approach, Luke approach, mayday, mayday 724WD right by the substation, I have a (uncertain word) that's out of control." That transmission lasted 15 seconds. The uncertain word sounded variously like "flap" or "craft" or "prop." At 1957:00, the LUF approach controller assigned the airplane a discrete transponder code and requested the pilot's intentions. At 1957:05, the pilot transmitted five phrases regarding the fact that he was "going down," and no further transmissions were received from the airplane. The recorded communications from the airplane were generally clear, and were free from background noise.

The NTSB investigator-in-charge was unable to obtain or listen to the radio communications recordings, or obtain the radar data, until 4 days after the accident, which was after the on-scene examinations had been completed. 


The airplane came to rest upright on level hard desert terrain with a moderate cover of bushy vegetation. The wreckage was very tightly contained, and only a few, non-structural, components (including cockpit canopy and transparency fragments, some cockpit items, and one propeller blade) were separated from the airplane. Ground scarring was consistent with the airplane remaining in essentially the same location that it struck the terrain. 

The canopy was impact damaged, and found just forward of the wreckage. The nose was severely crushed in the up and aft direction. There was no rotational scoring damage to the propeller hub or to the two blades that remained attached to the hub. The third blade was fractured in multiple pieces but did not display any significant rotational scoring. All three propeller blades were determined to have been at a similar pitch setting at the time of impact. Visual examination of the engine and PSRU, which included separation of the PSRU case, did not reveal any anomalies that were consistent with pre-impact damage and that would have prevented normal operation. The PSRU gears were undamaged, and the PSRU internal oil was free of metal particles or other debris. Continuity was established from the propeller hub to the engine. 

All three fixed landing gear were deformed up and aft. The cockpit/cabin area was severely deformed, and fuselage fractures were observed at the firewall and immediately aft of the cabin aft bulkhead. The cockpit/cabin longitudinal axis faced approximately 248 degrees magnetic, while the aft fuselage axis was oriented about 36 degrees tail-right relative to the forward section. 

The leading edges of both wings exhibited crush damage up and aft across their full spans. The wing and nose damage was consistent with an impact angle of approximately 50 degrees nose down. Both ailerons remained securely attached to their respective wings. Both electrically-driven flaps remained attached to the wings; the right flap control link was fractured. Flap and flap actuator positions were consistent with the flaps being in the retracted position at the time of impact. Damage and witness marks indicated contact and relative motion between the right wing and flap inboard edges, and the right fuselage sidewall. However, there were no photographs of that area of the fuselage prior to the removal of the pilot. The right rear spar was fracture-separated from its fuselage attach point. Both the left and right rear spars and fuselage attach points were excised from the airplane and sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington DC for examination and analysis. No indications of pre-impact failures were observed. 

The horizontal and vertical stabilizers remained attached to the fuselage. The elevators and rudder remained attached to their respective stabilizers. The elevator trim tab remained attached to the left elevator. The reinforced nylon clevis that attached the elevator trim tab to the electric elevator trim servo was fractured, which disconnected the tab from the servo. The elevator servo and clevis segments were sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington DC for examination and analysis. The laboratory examination determined that the clevis failure was due to overstress, and no material deficiencies were noted.

Three of the four rivets that secured the left fuselage-mounted rudder stop were sheared, which allowed the rudder stop to pivot from its normal position. That permitted rudder overtravel to the left, which enabled the rudder to contact the left elevator. Damage and witness marks indicated that contact had occurred between the left side of the rudder, and the trailing and inboard edges of the left elevator and elevator trim tab. Manipulation of the control surfaces indicated that some of that contact could not have occurred unless the elevator trim tab was displaced well beyond its normal trailing edge up travel range. 

Exclusive of impact damage, control continuity for the flaps, ailerons, rudder, and elevator was established. The investigation was unable to determine the pre-impact condition or continuity of the elevator trim system. 

The airplane was equipped with a Trio Avionics brand "EZ Pilot" single-axis autopilot that drove an aileron servo. The "power" toggle switch for the autopilot was found in the down/off position. The airplane was not equipped with either an angle of attack or a stall warning system.

The ELT had separated from its mounting and retaining mechanism, and was found in multiple fragments inside the aft fuselage. No indications of pre-or post-impact fire were observed.


Airplane Flight Profile

Data from the LUF ground tracking radar and the onboard GPS unit was used to reconstruct the profile for the entire flight. The overall ground track was meandering, consistent with the airplane being hand flown, instead of being guided by the autopilot.

After the turnaround at the northwest-most extent of the flight, the airplane proceeded in an essentially straight track to the southeast, back towards GEU. Between about 1255:50 and 1256:15, the groundspeed decreased from about 100 knots to about 60 knots. Between about1256:15 and 1257:15, the airplane began a steady descent from about 2,800 feet down to about 2,000 feet msl. About 1256:25, the transponder code switched to 7700, when the groundspeed was about 62 knots, and the airplane was at an altitude of about 2,700 feet. The 1256:53 "mayday" transmission began when the groundspeed was about 50 knots, at an altitude of about 2,300 feet msl. The ground speed continued to decrease for the remainder of the flight. The ground track began a turn to the south about 1256:55. About 1257:15, the descent rate increased to over 2,000 fpm, and the data ended a few seconds later. Local terrain elevation was approximately 1,300 feet msl. 

Airspeed and Stall Information

Since the airplane was experimental amateur-built, flight testing of the completed airplane was required to determine airspeed system calibration (and therefore accuracy) and actual stall speed values. The Vans Construction Manual enumerated the requirements and methods for the airspeed system and stall speed testing. 

Comparisons of the airplane's airspeed indicator (ASI) arcs and the Vans published values revealed that while most of the arcs were per the Vans values, the ASI stall speed values were not. The ASI full-flaps stall speed was 48 knots, instead of Vans value of 50 knots. The ASI no-flaps stall speed was 50 knots, instead of Vans value of 56 knots. No records of the airspeed system calibration, or stall speed testing or results were located for the investigation, and therefore the accuracy of the airplane airspeed indication system, the ASI stall speed markings, and actual stall speed values could not be determined by the investigation.

According to the Vans Construction Manual "The ideal is that when a stall is encountered, the nose tends to lower, or can easily be lowered by an easing of stick back pressure or by a forward stick pressure. In most RVs, there is little advance stall warning in the form of pre-stall buffet. The buffet which does occur does so within just a mph or two of the fully developed stall."

The airplane was not equipped with an angle of attack or stall warning system.

Engine Electrical Information

Eggenfellner Aircraft ceased production and support of the Subaru conversions about 2010. The first page of Chapter 6 (Electrical System Installation) of the Eggenfellner Installation Manual (IM) contained the following text in red typeface:

"READ AND UNDERSTAND [Boldfaced type in original] - Your engine requires a constant and stable source of electricity to drive its fuel injection, fuel pumps, and the engine control computer....[T]he Subaru cannot tolerate a loss of electrical power. For this reason, we have designed fully redundant electrical and fuel systems with provisions for automatic fault management. It is imperative that you adhere to this design for your own safety and to assure ongoing maintainability. Eggenfellner Aircraft Inc. cannot be responsible for endorsing or supporting builders who deviate from our design, nor be responsible for any direct or indirect damages which may result from such deviations."

The IM also stated that the "... engine uses a small, rugged, computer to control ignition, timing, and a wide variety of sensors. This computer is known as the Engine Control Module or ECM. It is also commonly referred to as the Engine Control Unit or ECU" and "The ECM must be mounted inside your cabin, away from sources of heat and vibration."

The wiring block- and detail- diagrams for the engine installation depicted three master switches which controlled power to three buses: Engine, Main, and Avionics.

The accident airplane was equipped with three explicitly-labeled master switches, "Master," "Avionics Master," and "Bus Master". The first two were two-position rocker switches located with nine other similar switches in a multi-switch panel typical of general aviation airplanes. The "Bus Master" was a 3-position (ON, OFF, OVERRIDE) toggle switch located a few inches above the other switch array. 

Although no wiring diagrams for the airplane were located, comparison of the airplane switch configuration with Eggenfellner and other documentation indicated that the "Bus Master" switch likely controlled electrical power to the engine as follows: The "ON" position powered the Engine Bus via the Main master switch, the OFF position isolated the Engine Bus from electrical power, and the OVERRIDE position powered the Engine Bus independent of the Main master switch setting. 

The day after the accident, the Main and Avionics master switches were found to be in their off positions, but the Bus Master was found to be in the OVERRIDE position. The investigation was unable to determine whether any first responders reset any of those switch positions. 

The pilot's normal and emergency procedures or procedure checklists for the airplane were not recovered.

NTSB Identification: WPR12FA059 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, December 10, 2011 in Surprise, AZ
Aircraft: Donohoe Vans RV-7A, registration: N724WD
Injuries: 1 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 December 10, 2011, about 1258 mountain standard time, an experimental amateur-built Donohoe Vans RV-7A, N724WD, collided with terrain near Surprise, Arizona, shortly after the pilot reported a controllability problem in flight. The airplane was substantially damaged and the private pilot, who was also the builder and owner of the airplane, was fatally injured. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the flight.

The pilot based the airplane at Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU), Glendale, Arizona, in a hangar that he shared with two other RV owners. According to information provided by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) personnel, the airplane departed GEU about 1226, and 4 minutes later, the GEU air traffic control tower controller instructed the pilot to contact Luke approach control, and the pilot complied. Luke Air Force Base (LUF), Glendale, was situated about 5 miles west of GEU, and Luke Approach was responsible for the airspace above and around LUF. Review of ground tracking radar data from LUF revealed that the entire flight was captured. The LUF radar first acquired the airplane at 1227:27, as it was climbing through an altitude of 1,300 feet above mean sea level (msl), and broadcasting a beacon code of 1200 on its transponder. The airplane flew about 25 miles to the northwest of GEU, maneuvered for a short time, and then began tracking back towards GEU. The flight altitude varied irregularly between about 2,700 and 3,300 feet msl.

About 1256:25, when the airplane was about 9 miles northwest of GEU at an altitude of 2,500 feet, the first 7700 beacon code return was received. The pilot transmitted a "mayday" call to Luke approach about 25 seconds later, and stated that he was unable to control the airplane. The final radar return was received at 1257:21. The wreckage was located about 800 feet north of the final radar return, on flat terrain, at an elevation of 1,330 feet. Examination of the wreckage revealed ground scars and damage consistent with a left spin. All aerodynamic surfaces and flight controls were located in the wreckage. Fuel spillage from the right wing tank was observed, but there was no fire. A handheld Garmin GPSMap 296 unit was recovered from the wreckage, and retained for data download.

FAA records indicated that the airplane was built in 2006. It was equipped with an Eggenfellner conversion of a Subaru automobile engine, a Quinti-Avio propeller hub, and a Warp Drive propeller. The hour meter in the airplane registered 340.5 hours.

According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land rating. His flight logbook indicated a total flight experience of about 683 hours, including 270 hours in the accident airplane make and model. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued in July 2010, and his most recent flight review was completed in January 2011.

The GEU 1247 automated weather observation included wind from 080 degrees at 5 knots; visibility 20 miles; broken cloud layer at 20,000 feet; temperature 19 degrees C; dew point -7 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 30.10 inches of mercury.

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The best friend of a man killed while flying his experimental plane on Saturday talks to Fox 10 Sunday night.

Terrence Donohoe, 53, of Glendale, died after his plane crashed near Jomax and 147th Avenue in Surprise.

He was the only person on-board.

The plane that went down was a Vans RV-7A experimental plane. It took five years to build and had performed flawlessly.

But on Saturday, Donohoe was flying in the plane at about 1 p.m. when he told controllers at Luke Air Force Base he had lost control of the plane, and it went down.

Darryl Ratliff said he knew the plane well. He helped the pilot build it.

“Terry and I built that airplane in his garage. It took us five and a half years of consistent work to build it ... It's probably one of the most important things I have done in my life. It is a major project,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff said Donohoe knew what he was doing.

“He was an excellent pilot ... We flew together many times, and he has flown that plane to Wisconsin. We've been to Albuquerque -- all over the state of Arizona -- and it was an excellent little plane,” Ratliff said.

The mystery is why Donohoe lost control of the plane.

“At this point, I don’t have an idea what went wrong. But there's a big part of my life that is missing. It is ... catastrophic to our family,” Ratliff said.

He also said it's a difficult time for his friend's family.

“His wife is in a state of denial, disbelief, shock. His daughter has just been probably informed this morning. They are doing the best they can -- trying to take it one step at a time,” Ratliff said.

Donohoe worked at Honeywell, where he was an electrical engineer.

He leaves behind a wife and an adult daughter.