Thursday, February 16, 2012

Boston Improving, But Report Warns of “Catastrophic Accidents”


BOSTON (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) - The U.S. airspace is one of the safest in the world, but close calls remain a real problem.

FOX Undercover obtained air traffic control recordings that give an inside look at the communication between air traffic controllers and pilots as they face close calls.

One close call unfolded in the sky over New England last October as a pilot lost engine power while traveling from Fitchburg to Vermont.

Pilot Janice Peaslee is heard on the Air Traffic Control recording saying, “The engine is just, is, is losing power, I guess.”

Air Traffic Controller Chris Henchey was on the job.

“You know I knew that this was a serious situation because the type of airplane she was flying only has one engine. So there's no backup,” said Henchey.

Henchey says the pilot wouldn't make it to the nearest airport in Concord, New Hampshire, so he directed her to a nearby field.

They kept talking until they lost contact with each other because the plane was so low.

“It's a waiting game,” said Henchey. “You're kind of hoping and praying at that point that she gets down safely.”

Out of contact, Peaslee made one last attempt to start her engine, and it worked.

Henchey and Peaslee reunited in Atlanta earlier this month as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association honored Henchey for his life saving actions.

It's the type of happy ending everyone hopes for.

But a 2011 aviation safety report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office warns of the “risk of catastrophic accidents”.

"Mishaps and close calls involving aircraft or other vehicles at airports or in the airspace around airports are common," according to the report.

The most serious close call at Logan airport happened in 2005 when two planes were cleared for takeoff within five seconds of each other.

The problem? Air traffic controllers didn't notice the planes were on intersecting runways.

The planes took off separated by less than 200 feet.

It's called a runway incursion, the unauthorized presence of a plane, vehicle or person on the runway.

The F.A.A. categorized that one as a Category A, meaning a collision was narrowly avoided.

FOX Undercover obtained records from the F.A.A. about runway incursions and found that since 2009, there have been 34 at Logan.

Thankfully, the most serious ones were Category C, meaning there was enough time or distance to avoid a collision.

“Runway incursions are a problem,” said Henchey. “They're a loss of separation. We have rules in place to make sure that safety happens. And runway incursions are a violation of those safety rules.”

Henchey admits it can be a stressful job, but he knows it also has its rewards.

“You have to make a decision, sometimes in a split second. And make sure that it's going to work. And keep people safe is our main priority,” said Henchey.

Logan had the most runway incursions in country back in 2005 with 15. In 2011, the airport had nine.

National Air Traffic Controller's Association spokesman Doug Church sent a statement to FOX Undercover:

"Air traffic controllers in Boston and nationwide are committed to aviation safety and are proud that the U.S. has the world's safest runways. The number of serious runway incursions dropped 90 percent from 2000 to 2010. Controllers have worked collaboratively with pilots and the Federal Aviation Administration to achieve our high level of safety and we will continue to work to raise that level even higher."

The F.A.A. also sent a statement: “The Federal Aviation Administration and the Massachusetts Port Authority have worked closely with other members of the aviation community to improve runway safety at Boston Logan International Airport over the past few years. We track every incident, even if it poses no immediate risk -- like the runway incursions at Logan in 2011 -- to better understand what we can do to further improve safety. Analytic tools help us mitigate any safety risks we identify.”

“At Logan, a new centerfield taxiway has helped reduce runway intersections and recently-installed runway status lights provide another important tool to help prevent runway conflicts. Recent changes in air traffic phrasing require a pilot to get a controller's approval before crossing each runway and clarify how a pilot waits for departures before obtaining a takeoff clearance. The FAA is continuing to deploy Next Generation Air Transportation (NextGen) technology and procedures that will further enhance safety.”

Former commercial pilot in Texas guilty of child porn

Federal prosecutors in Houston say 47-year-old Todd Steven Ewanko of Humble pleaded guilty to distribution and possession of child pornography.


HOUSTON -- A former commercial pilot faces up to 20 years in prison in a child pornography case involving millions of images.  Federal prosecutors in Houston say 47-year-old Todd Steven Ewanko of Humble pleaded guilty  to distribution and possession of child pornography. Sentencing has been set for May 7. Ewanko formerly was a captain with Colgan Air Inc., doing business as Continental Connection. He was suspended following his July 2010 arrest and has remained in custody. Officers who searched Ewanko's home seized several computers. Prosecutors say the equipment yielded millions of images and videos related to child pornography. 


An Humble man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Monday to distributing and possessing child pornography after authorities found millions of images on his computer and storage devices during a search of his home.

Todd Steven Ewanko, 47, a former commercial pilot, was arrested in July 2010 after the Precinct 4 Constable's Office in Harris County searched his home and found the images on multiple devices.

During the search officers found two laptop and desktop computers, 10 hard drives and CD/DVDs containing pornographic images of young children.

In addition, officers also found a screen saver on one of the computers depicting child pornography.

Ewanko came to the constable office's attention in June 2010 when an undercover officer conducting an online investigation noticed a computer advertising files for sharing that appeared to be child pornography based on their titles.

After downloading eight files - one showing a naked child laying on a bed on her back tied with a rope - the officer's suspicions were confirmed and the computer was traced to Ewanko.

Sentencing is scheduled for May, with Ewanko facing five to 20 years for the distribution charge, 10 years for possession and a fine of up to $500,000.

Upon completion of any prison time, Ewanko could also face supervised released for life, during which the court can impose special restrictions and prohibit his internet use.

He has been in custody since his arrest.

http://www.chron.com

'Every second plane could hit mountain'

A Rotorua coroner's hearing into a plane crash that killed two Australians and the pilot has heard every second plane flying into Taupo Airport with a certain type of navigational equipment is "pulled" off course towards Mt Tauhara.

Dr Wallace Bain heard this from lawyer Philip Grace, who is acting for the family of pilot Steve Brown, who crashed into the mountain killing himself and two prominent Australian socialites, Christine and Bernie Lewis.

The couple and the pilot, from Christian Aviation, died after the light plane slammed into the mountain about 11.30am on February 2, 2005. They had been heading to Taupo from Kerikeri after they couldn't land because of bad weather.

Mr Grace told the court the accident could have been avoided had the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) been told of two incidents in October 2001, when two Air New Zealand planes were "pulled" off course towards the mountain.

He said a report on the incident by Airways, New Zealand's air navigation service, explained one of the planes carrying 17 people avoided crashing only because cloud lifted giving pilots a view of the mountain.

The trio would still be alive today had other pilots been warned of the problem, he said.

The Airways report indicated this was happening to 50 per cent of planes heading into Taupo using an Aircraft Direction Finder (ADF).

ADF is used by pilots as there are no air traffic controllers at Taupo Airport to direct pilots. The equipment could give false readings depending on the weather at the time, the court heard.

Mr Grace said, in evidence, it was "extraordinary" no one had passed on information to the CAA to warn other pilots of the problem.

The issue had been filed away as it had been identified the problem could be resolved once GPS was introduced for flying into Taupo, he said.

Mr Brown's plane had GPS fitted but he wasn't certified to use it.

"It was filed in the too-hard basket ... they decided to do nothing about it," he said.

"It just beggars belief this has happened ... every second plane flying into Taupo could crash into Mt Tauhara."

Within a month of the deaths, Air New Zealand stopped flying into Taupo, Mr Grace told the court.

"The general public were told nothing," he said.

"Airways has known this has been an ongoing problem for about 10 years."

Meanwhile, Mr Lewis' son, Mark Lewis, who has been an RAF pilot and is a private pilot, made several submissions about the same issue as well as on Mr Brown's health.

He, his sister Vanessa Willans and uncle, Lawrie Lewis, flew to New Zealand for the inquest to find "clarity".

An autopsy discovered the pilot had disease around a replaced heart valve and 14 grams of carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol in his blood - showing he had possibly had cannabis in the 48 hours before his death.

Mr Lewis also claims baggage wasn't secured in the plane - which breached aviation rules.

Mr Brown's family denied he had ever used drugs, stating he was anti-drugs.

Mr Lewis said the "culture" regarding medical testing for pilots needed to be upgraded and regulations needed to be brought up to world standards.

Outside New Zealand, pilots with heart problems are not able to fly alone, the court heard.

Safety needed to be paramount, Mr Lewis said.

"It's disappointing we have an environment in New Zealand that is like this ... safety needs to be placed about economics," he said.

Meanwhile, his family have been left gutted by the deaths of their "precious" family members.

Mr Lewis wears his father's wedding ring on a chain around his neck, while his sister wears her mother's gold earring and ring she was wearing at the time of her death.

Today the brother and sister run the mortgage finance company their parents started which Mr Lewis said was helping them deal with their grief.

"Obviously, there is grief and sadness.

"We have tried to deal with it as best we can and the wonderful legacy they have left," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Bain adjourned the inquest to get more information regarding Mr Brown's medical condition.

"It's a complicated case," he said.

Canada - Richmond's firefighters need help to fill aircraft emergency gap

Richmond’s firefighters urgently need training to deal with aircraft emergencies, before their ability to respond falls even further behind.

A “service gap” in coping with such incidents has been identified by Richmond Fire-Rescue (RFR).

It says their members present ability to respond to aircraft emergencies has lessened over the years.

Apparently, firefighters, who were once fully trained and certified, do not have the opportunity to maintain their skills and have moved to new responsibilities within the department or have retired.

And, with an eye on the ever-expanding Vancouver Airport, deputy fire chief Tim Wilkinson said in his report there’s a “need to train personnel and deliver aircraft emergency response in Richmond.

“RFR's current ability to respond to and mitigate aircraft emergencies has eroded with time.

“RFR currently has limited capacity to respond to these types of emergencies.”

RFR's review of YVR statistics and future plans identify the potential for an increased number of larger aircraft incidents based on an increased volume of air traffic, as well as the desire of the airport to attract more air carriers who fly to a greater number of destinations with increased passenger volumes.

In his report to city council’s community safety committee this week, Wilkinson pointed how the city’s aircraft emergency response capabilities are served by two distinct units; one from the airport’s airside team and from the city’s fire department.

The two units often provide a combined response, seen to its best effect last October when a small aircraft crash-landed onto Russ Baker Way, resulting in the airside units tackling the ensuing fire from the airport boundary and the city’s firefighters at the scene.

“While emergency incidents involving aircraft travel remain at low levels, RFR does respond to an average of 45 declared aircraft emergencies per year, coupled with serious aircraft related events occurring within the city ... boundaries on a regular occasion,” wrote Wilkinson.

With the widening service gap in mind, the fire department identified three potential options to fill the void.

The first was to remain with the status quo, with training provided only to structural building firefighters.

A second option involved training and maintaining staff to full Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) training

accreditation as identified within the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).

However, this option is not seen as reasonable as this standard is designed for employees whose primary job scope is that of an airport firefighter where the principal area of responsibility is airside.

Also, the city would incur significant cost of approximately $800,000 per year to bring the department up to that level of expertise.

The final option, most favoured by RFR, will see firefighters increasing their knowledge and skills to the level where all members would be able to “recognize and

mitigate aircraft specific hazards” and take appropriate fire attack action and passenger extrication strategies.

“This strategy would also allow RFR personnel to understand the practices and work more effectively with YVR emergency services personnel,” said Wilkinson.

“Secondarily, when incidents of this nature occur within the City of Richmond, RFR staff will be able to manage these events with greater effectiveness and efficiency, providing a safer community for the citizens of Richmond.”

Wilkinson said RFR is currently investigating external service providers who could train the staff to the levels required.

The annual cost to train all RFR firefighters under option three is estimated at $84,730 per year and would be funded through the existing budget.

Air Race Crash Victims Sue Organizers: North America P-51D, N79111. Accident occurred September 16, 2011 in Reno, Nevada

LAS VEGAS (CN) - The family of a man who died when a World War II fighter plane slammed into spectators at an airplane race sued the pilot's family, the event organizer, the venue and the man who modified the plane.

Eleven people died, including pilot James Leeward, on Sept. 16, 2011 during the Ultimate Gold Race at the Reno Stead Airport, sponsored by the Reno Air Racing Association.

Leeward's Mustang, The Galloping Ghost, pitched, rolled and hit the Tarmac in front of the grandstands. Seven died at the scene; four died at a hospital.

The family and Estate of Gregory Morcom claims the defendants negligently allowed pilots to fly unsafe planes at dangerous speeds.

The race "is the only race where ... pilots can compete against other racers, flying as low as 50 feet off the ground, close to the crowd and separated by only a few feet, sometimes wing tip to wing tip," the complaint states. "Air shows are dangerous, and hundreds of people, pilots and spectators have been killed at air shows. Air races are even more dangerous."

The aircraft was built in 1947 as a fighter plane, but underwent "major modifications" including shortening the wings, and "substantially increasing the engine power," the complaint states.

"All of these modifications were designed and intended to push the aircraft to speeds beyond those it was designed and built to withstand," the complaint states, adding that the modifications "were a substantial factor in causing the tragedy."

The aircraft had completed several laps and was making its way toward the home pylon when it banked left, then right, turned away from the course and pitched to a steep nose-high altitude. It then dropped in a "nose-low altitude at full power and hit the ground between the first rows of box seats in front of the grandstand seating area," the complaint states. "The explosion created a crater roughly 3 feet deep and 8 feet wide and left a 1-acre debris field."

The family says defendant Richard L. Shanholtzer Jr., a Texan doing business as Frontier Aviation, modified the plane and "turned the Galloping Ghost into an untested, experimental aircraft, which would now fly at speeds well above the original design speed."

The Morcoms also sued the pilot's estate, claiming Leeward should have known that a "trim tab," or gauge used to control and stabilize the aircraft, would fail under high speed.

"The sole trim tab on the tail of the P-51 Mustang failed, placing excess G forces on the pilot as the plane pulled sharply upward, causing the pilot to lose consciousness and control of the aircraft," according to the complaint.

The airplane was purchased from the military in 1946. The plane, which won the 1981 Reno Air Race, was modified several times before being sold to the pilot in 1983, according to the complaint.

"By the time of the tragedy, the wing span had been reduced by a total of 10 feet, the horizontal tail was reduced in span and the ailerons modified," the Morcoms say. "It had only one elevator trim tab. These modifications rendered the aircraft an experimental one where no one, including the pilot, knew what would happen when the aircraft was operated at top speed, which was now at or above 550 miles per hour."

The Morcoms claim the defendant Reno Air Racing Association negligently allowed "experimental, untried and untested aircraft to fly in close proximity to spectators and each other, where they could be and were rocked by wake turbulence with a high risk of loss of control."

The Morcoms add that the pilot was 74, an age at which "pilots lose their ability to withstand G forces."

The family accuses the racing association of failing to properly inspect the racing aircraft, allowing the modifications, and failing to put a speed limit on the race, among other things.

Plaintiffs Margaret Morcom and Ronald William Morcom are the parents of Gregory John Morcom, who died. Fellow plaintiffs Tracy Thurber Morcom was the man's sister-in-law, along and plaintiff Ronald William Morcom Jr. was his brother.

They, along with plaintiffs Eric G. Brown; Dale and Tara Terwedo; Norman, Beth and Greg McDonnell; and Gage Ivanoff were "severely injured as a result of the crash."

Defendant Aero-Trans Corp. is accused of altering the plane's engine and aircraft.

The family seeks medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, and damages, including for negligence and emotional distress.

They are represented by Matthew Sharp.

http://www.courthousenews.com


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.

Reno Air Races officials say planning on schedule for this year's event

Reno National Championship Air Races officials Thursday told a committee of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority that planning for this year’s event is on schedule pending approval of the races’ permits.

However, the airport authority’s lawyer testified that the usual $100 million liability insurance for the event might not be enough coverage because of the P-51 crash in September that killed pilot Jimmy Leeward and 10 people on the ground. About 70 others were seriously injured.

“As bad as that crash was, it could have been worse,” said Ann Morgan, the authority’s lawyer.

Morgan noted that the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, but its report and safety recommendations might not be complete prior to the beginning of this year’s event Sept. 12. She said if the report is released prior to the event, race officials are required to comply with any safety recommendations that result.

The airport board, landlord of race venue Reno Stead Airport, is in the process of deciding whether it will approve this year‘s race permits.

Mike Houghton, air races association president, told the committee that planning for the event had to proceed before the accident investigation is completed. He said he’s “totally satisfied with where (the board) is going” in the approval process.

During the public comment period of the meeting, two speakers condemned the races as inherently unsafe.

Matt Mansur of Reno said previous crashes have claimed the lives of several participants and last year’s crash killed and injured spectators. He said that crash “opened the floodgates” to lawsuits that will continue to pile up after the accident report is made public.

“(Race officials) are trying to get momentum for this event before the crash report is released,” said Mansur, who said more fatal crashes might occur. “I implore (the airport) not to have this event again ... They should pack up their stuff, go away and be thankful they are not being prosecuted.”

Mark S. Daniels told the committee members that aviation fuel also is a danger at the annual air races. He said the race procedures for tanker trucks and the fueling of the race planes invites explosions.

Lew Gage, a member of the Stead Airport Users Association, said all airports use tankers and safely fuel aircraft. He said he wants the races to continue both for the entertainment and economic value of the event.

Race spectators, he said, “pay their money and take their chances.”

Causes of Fly Montserrat mishap revealed: Britten-Norman BN-2A-27 Islander, VP-MNI.

A report on the findings of a mishap involving a Fly Montserrat aircraft at the John A. Osborne Airport in April last year has revealed that trapped air in the right brake hydraulic lines led to the incident.

The Fly Montserrat aircraft veered off the runway and ended up in the embankment on the North Eastern side of the runway at the John A Osborne airport in April 2011.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch AAIB report says that on landing, the aircraft suffered a loss of right braking and, in order to avoid the steep drop at the end of the runway, the pilot elected to use the left brake to steer the aircraft into the grass where it hit the raised embankment.

A Government House press release says the full report into the incident at the John A Osborne Airport on May 22nd 2011 will be issued in due course and made available to the general public.

Photo

Waterloo, Iowa: Pilot charged with lying to FAA

A Waterloo pilot has pleaded not guilty to charges he inflated his flight hours when submitting paperwork to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Fahad Nabeel Hussein Al-Daous, 33, appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Des Moines after authorities unsealed an indictment charging him with two counts of making false statements to the FAA.

An April trial date was set, and Al-Daous remains free pending trial, said his attorney, J. Keith Rigg.

Al-Daous is a United States citizen and holds dual citizenship with Saudi Arabia, but his first language is Arabic, and an interpreter was on hand during his court appearance.

As part of the conditions of release pending trial, he has to surrender his passport, authorities said.

Al-Daous had taken flying lessons in Waterloo and traveled to the Ottumwa area for check rides, which are in-flight tests.

Court records claim he falsely inflated the number of "pilot in command" flight hours he had completed on an airman certificate or rating application form for pilots and flight instructors while in Wapello County on May 21 and May 27.

FAA records indicate he holds a private pilot license with single-engine aircraft and instrument certificates.

The case was investigated by the FAA and the FBI, according to officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

An FAA spokesman was looking into the indictment and had no immediate comment.

http://wcfcourier.com

Nigeria Airways was a failure – Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

LAGOS — Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, said the defunct Nigeria Airways was a failure to the country and the aviation industry in particular.

Speaking at the launch of a book by Oba Olufemi Ogunleye, entitled: “Nigerian Civil Aviation: Decade of Security, Safety and Passenger Comfort Development in NCAA” in Lagos, Obasanjo said the defunct Nigeria Airways was run by a board of directors, that was very corrupt.

He noted that the airline failed because of the high level of corruption perpetrated by those running it, adding that all that could be done to salvage the situation then was to liquidate the airline.

He said: “Nigeria Airways was a failure. When you go through the history of what Nigerians have done to run down their country, it is bad. When I was leaving public office in 1979, there were 32 aircraft in Nigeria Airways fleet but when I came back in 1999, I only met one.

“I looked back to history and discovered that the board of directors of the airline was corrupt. The board will form a company in Jessey Island, USA and will give the repairs of the aircraft to that company. So, that was how they embezzled the airline’s fund and ran it down”

“Where is Okada Air, where is Albakar Air, where is Afri Air? They all went the way of Nigeria Airways. The situation of Nigeria Airways was not different from the Nigerian National Shipping Lines.”

He noted that if Nigeria would achieve the Vision 202020, transportation should be regarded as one aspect of the country’s economy, which civil aviation was a core part of it.

“I believe that if we are going to achieve Vision 202020, transportation is one aspect of our national economy that we cannot do without and civil aviation is a core part of it. I hope that what we have achieved so far, we will continue to build on it,” he stressed.

http://www.vanguardngr.com

Demand for unmanned aircraft expected to rise

The demand for unmanned aerial systems is expected to continue growing, as more countries look to add unmanned aircraft for military use due to changing operational needs, said the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) group.

The company is the global leader in unmanned aerial systems and pioneered the development of the technology in the 1970s.

Such capabilities have changed the way military surveillance and reconnaissance missions have been conducted in recent times.

IAI's corporate vice-president and general manager for its military-aircraft group, Mr Roni Segal, explained: "When the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flies, you don't see it and you don't hear it.

"That dimension was very hard to achieve 30 years ago so, now, countries understand that the technology should be part of their national security."

He was speaking to my paper at the Singapore Airshow 2012, which will be open to the public over the weekend.

It is the company's experience in developing integrated systems to support its network of UAVs that has cemented its role as a global leader in the unmanned-systems sector, said Mr Joe Weisman, who handles marketing for IAI.

Mr Segal declined to reveal how many types of UAV systems have been developed or the number of countries which use them. But he said that the company is proud that its Heron 1 UAV is used by the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

In particular, Mr Weisman highlighted the company's unique top-down approach in the development of such aircraft.

"Many other UAV companies start with a remote-controlled airplane like a toy, and then upgrade it. Our approach is to take the best in manned aircraft and then to scale it down to a usable UAV system," he explained.

http://www.asiaone.com

Jumbo jet sinking at outback museum

There has been so much rain in parts of outback Queensland, a Boeing 747 on display at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach, in the state's central-west, is now sinking into the ground.

The museum says the nose wheel of the jumbo jet is tied onto a large concrete block but it has sunk about 20 centimetres into what appears to be an old underground fuel tank.

Museum general manager Rodney Seccombe says the rain has been a problem.

"When we've had rain - it's obviously wet the soil in around where the tank was - it's sunk about eight inches in the last lot of rain," he said.

"The block of concrete is about 30 tonnes in itself and the whole aircraft is about 180 tonnes, but we are only talking about the nose wheel at the moment."

He says they have now got a support under the plane while they work out how to fix the sinking wheel.

"It's just that everything is so big and so heavy that you do have to think outside of the circle as to how you are going to do something," he said.

"We are going to have to have soil tests done and all that sort of thing.

"The actual foundation weighs 30 tonnes and we've got the plane on top of that as well, so it's not something we can just pick up and move.

"We've really got to work out how we are going to do it but as it is, it is quite safe."

http://www.abc.net.au

Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP, AcuWings, Christiansen Aviation Inc., N665SP: Accident occurred February 15, 2012 in North Bend, Washington

http://registry.faa.gov/N665SP

NTSB Identification: WPR12FA105  
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 15, 2012 in North Bend, WA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/13/2013
Aircraft: CESSNA 172S, registration: N665SP
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

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

During the local flight, which took place in dark night visual meteorological conditions, several witnesses reported observing the airplane’s lights at a low altitude and hearing the airplane’s engine running before the sound of impact. One witness, a certificated pilot, estimated that when he saw the airplane there was an overcast layer of clouds about 2,000 feet mean sea level (msl) with some lower level clouds and patchy areas of fog. Recorded radar data showed the flight departing the airport and ascending to an altitude of about 2,400 feet msl while traveling in a northeasterly direction. The data subsequently showed that the airplane descended on an east-southeasterly heading to an altitude of about 1,500 feet msl before radar contact was lost. The last recorded radar target was about 6 miles northwest of the accident site, which was located at an elevation of about 1,958 feet msl. The terrain along the pilot’s route of flight ranged between about 500 and 1,000 feet msl; the accident occurred as the airplane approached an area of rising (mountainous) terrain. A postaccident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of a mechanical malfunction or failure that would have precluded normal operation. Toxicology tests of the pilot revealed a blood alcohol concentration of 154 mg/dl. Federal Aviation Administration regulations prohibit operation of an airplane by persons with blood alcohol concentrations exceeding 40.0 mg/dL. It is likely that the pilot was impaired during the flight, which affected his ability to operate the airplane and maintain clearance from terrain.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's physical impairment due to alcohol, which adversely affected his ability to operate the airplane and to maintain clearance from mountainous terrain while operating in dark night conditions.



 HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On February 15, 2012, about 0154 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 172S, N665SP, was substantially damaged following impact with terrain on the western face of Mount Si, near North Bend, Washington. The airplane was registered to Christiansen Aviation Inc., Wilmington, Delaware, and operated by the pilot, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91. The commercial pilot and his two passengers sustained fatal injuries. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The local flight originated from the Renton Municipal Airport (RNT), Renton, Washington, at 0135.

A witness, who was a rated private pilot, reported that while driving in an easterly direction on Interstate 90 (I-90), he observed anti-collision and navigation lights from a low flying airplane that was flying in a southeasterly direction, about 1 mile north of I-90. The witness stated that as I-90 turned to a southwesterly direction, he lost sight of the airplane for a couple of minutes, however, reestablished visual contact with the airplane as he and the airplane approached North Bend. The witness said that at that time, the airplane altered its course and was traveling in a northeasterly direction at an estimated altitude of about 1,000 feet above ground level (agl). The witness added that visibility was at least 3 miles with a high overcast cloud ceiling and a few lower elevation clouds.

Several witnesses located near the accident site reported having heard an impact sound. One witness reported observing the lights of a low flying airplane over his location about 300 to 500 feet agl. The witness stated that he heard the engine rev up and couldn’t see the lights anymore. Shortly thereafter, they heard a pop along with the engine noise suddenly stop.

A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recorded radar data revealed that the accident airplane was on initial climb from RNT. The airplane ascended to an altitude of about 2,400 feet mean sea level (msl), initially traveling in a northeasterly direction. As the airplane approached the area of Snoqualmie Falls, it descended to an altitude of about 1,500 feet msl, and traveled along an east-southeasterly course. The last recorded radar target was at 0146, about 1.5 miles southwest of Snoqualmie Falls at an altitude of 1,500 feet msl. The last radar target was located about 6.11 miles northwest of the accident site.

According to one of the passenger’s family members, the pilot and the two passengers attended a local hockey game that started at 1930. Following the game, the pilot and passengers went to dinner.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION


The pilot, age 30, held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane ratings. The pilot also held a flight instructor certificate with airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane ratings. A first-class airman medical certificate was issued to the pilot on August 8, 2007, with no limitations stated. Review of the pilot’s logbook revealed that as of the most current logbook entry, dated February 12, 2012, he had accumulated 991.5 hours of total flight time.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The four-seat, high-wing, fixed-gear airplane, serial number (S/N) 172S8069, was manufactured in 1998. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-360-L2A engine, serial number L-27912-51A, rated at 180 horsepower. The airplane was also equipped with a McCauley 1A170E/JHA7660, serial number SH101, fixed pitch propeller. Review of the aircraft maintenance records revealed that the most recent annual inspection was completed on October 10, 2011, at an airframe total time of 5,477.3 hours and engine time since major overhaul of 560.7 hours.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION

A review of recorded data from the Renton Municipal Airport automated weather observation station, located 21 miles east of the accident site, revealed at 0756, conditions were wind from 160 degrees at 5 knots, visibility 6 miles, mist, few clouds at 2,800 feet, overcast cloud layer at 4,000 feet, temperature 2 degrees Celsius, dew point 2 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 30.25 inches of mercury.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane impacted trees and terrain on an approximate heading of about 120 degrees magnetic at an elevation of about 1,958 feet msl. Multiple topped trees and damaged tree limbs were noted within the wreckage debris path. Both wings, horizontal, and vertical stabilizers were separated and located throughout the wreckage debris path. The fuselage came to rest inverted and the engine remained attached.

Partial flight control cable continuity was established due to the extent of impact damage to the aircraft. The rudder flight control cables remained attached to the control horn at the tail of the aircraft. The ailerons and flap control cables were observed with tension overload separations at the inboard section of each wing and remained attached to the flight controls. The flap actuator was observed with no threads exposed corresponding to a 0 degree flap setting. The elevator control cables were observed with tension overload separations consistent with the separation of the horizontal stabilizer surfaces. The elevator trim tab control cables and actuator remained attached to the tail. The elevator trim actuator was measured and found to be 1.3 inches, which equated to a neutral trim position.

The top spark plug for the number 2 cylinder was removed and exhibited normal wear signatures as per the Champion Aviation Check-a-Plug chart. The fuel distribution valve was opened and observed with no debris or damage to the diaphragm. The propeller was separated from the crankshaft and exhibited leading edge polishing and “S” bending.

The on-site examination of the airframe and engine, revealed no evidence of a mechanical malfunction or failure with the airframe or engine prior to impact. The wreckage was not recovered from the accident site.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
The King County Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy of the pilot on February 16, 2012. The medical examiner determined that the cause of death was “...blunt force trauma...”

The FAA's Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicology tests on the pilot. According to CAMI's report, carbon monoxide, cyanide, volatiles, and drugs were tested, and had positive results for 246 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in the Urine, 195 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in the Vitreous, 154 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in the blood, 92.08 (ug/ml, ug/g) Acetaminophen detected in the urine, 6.852 (ug/ml, ug/g) Dipehnhydramine detected in the blood, and an unspecified amount of Dipehnhydramine in the urine and liver.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Information obtained from CAMI revealed, “…ethanol is primarily a social drug with a powerful central nervous system depressant. After absorption, ethanol is uniformly distributed throughout all tissues and body fluids. The distribution pattern parallels the water content and blood supply of each organ. Postmortem production of ethanol also takes place due to putrefaction processes, but vitreous humor and urine do not suffer from such production to any significant extent in relation to blood. Vitreous humor would normally have about 12% more ethanol than blood if the system is in the post absorptive state, and urine would normally have about 25% more ethanol than blood. The average rate of elimination of ethanol from blood is 18 mg/dL (15-20 mg/dL) per hour.”

CAMI also states that Title 14 CFR 91.17 (a) “prohibits any person from acting or attempting to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft while having 0.040 g/dL (40.0 mg/dL) or more alcohol in the blood.” Adverse clinical symptoms have been noted with blood ethanol levels as low as 20.0 mg/dL (0.020 g/dL).”


  
NTSB Identification: WPR12FA105 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 15, 2012 in North Bend, WA
Aircraft: CESSNA 172S, registration: N665SP
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.


On February 15, 2012, about 0154 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 172S, N665SP, cruised into the western face of Mount Si, about 1.75 miles east of North Bend, Washington. The airplane fragmented upon impacting trees and upsloping mountainous terrain, which resulted in substantial structural damage. The airplane’s registered owner, Christiansen Aviation, Inc., Wilmington, Delaware, leased the airplane to a fixed base flight school operator in Renton, Washington, called AcuWings. The commercial pilot held a certified flight instructor certificate. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The flight was performed under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed during the dark nighttime, personal sightseeing flight. No flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Renton Municipal Airport (RNT), about 0135.

A review of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recorded radar was performed for an aircraft having performance characteristics of a Cessna 172, that flew on a route from RNT to the accident site vicinity, and that disappeared about the time of the accident near the crash site. Only one target was found that met these criteria. The FAA’s recorded radar shows an aircraft on initial climb out from RNT. The aircraft climbed to 2,400 feet mean sea level (msl), as indicated by its altitude encoding transponder. Initially, the aircraft proceeded in a northeasterly direction. However, as the aircraft approached Snoqualmie Falls, it descended to 1,500 feet and proceeded on an east-southeasterly course. The last radar hit occurred at 0146, at which time the aircraft was about 1 mile southwest of the Falls, and about 1 mile north of Interstate Highway 90 (I-90). During the last minute of recorded flight, the aircraft’s ground speed decreased from about 112 to 106 knots.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator received information from a witness who stated that about 0150 he was driving in an easterly direction on I-90. The witness holds a private pilot certificate. He reported having observed the anticollision and navigation lights from a low flying airplane that was cruising in a southeasterly direction an estimated 1 mile north of I-90. The witness stated that when I-90 turned southeasterly, he lost sight of the airplane for a couple of minutes. However, he regained visual contact with the airplane as he and the airplane approached North Bend. At that time, the airplane had altered its course and was heading in a northeasterly direction. The witness estimated that the airplane’s altitude was about 1,000 feet above ground level. (North Bend’s elevation is 400 to 500 feet msl.) The witness stated that the visibility was at least 3 miles. There was an overcast ceiling several thousand feet above the ground, with a few lower elevation clouds. Based upon the flight path drawing provided by the witness, the Safety Board investigator notes that when the witness lost visual contact with the airplane, it was flying toward the Mount Si area and was within 3 miles of the crash site.

Beginning about 0154, several persons located in North Bend telephoned 911 and reported having heard an impact sound. At least one witness reported having observed the lights of a low flying airplane and the sound of its engine suddenly stop following its 0153 low altitude easterly direction flight over the city toward Mount Si.

The Safety Board investigator’s on scene examination of the accident site and airplane wreckage revealed evidence of multiple broken tree trunks and felled branches on the mountainside in Mount Si’s Natural Resource Conservation Area. Fragmented airframe components, including both crushed wings, were noted below dozens of felled branches on an approximate 120-degree magnetic track leading to the fuselage, which was upside down. No evidence of preimpact oil leaks, fuel filter blockage, flight control anomalies, or fire was noted at the estimated 1,950-foot msl crash site.

IDENTIFICATION
  Regis#: 665SP        Make/Model: C172      Description: 172, P172, R172, Skyhawk, Hawk XP, Cutla
  Date: 02/15/2012     Time: 0900

  Event Type: Accident   Highest Injury: Fatal     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Destroyed

LOCATION
  City: NORTH BEND   State: WA   Country: US

DESCRIPTION
  AIRCRAFT CRASHED UNDER UNKNOWN CIRCUMSTANCES, THE 3 PERSONS ON BOARD WERE 
  FATALLY INJURED, NEAR LITTLE SI MOUNTAIN, NORTH BEND, WA

INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   3
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   1     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Pass:   2     Fat:   2     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:    


OTHER DATA
  Activity: Unknown      Phase: Unknown      Operation: OTHER


  FAA FSDO: SEATTLE, WA  (NM01)                   Entry date: 02/16/2012 
 
 

Courtesy of Kris Hill, The Reporter
Seth Dawson, Kentlake swim coach


Seth Dawson, 2001 photo


Courtesy of Rebecca Sobus
Decatur swim coach Rob Hill was killed in a plane crash Wednesday morning near Mt. Si.


Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP, N665SP plane crash wreckage


The three people who died in the crash of a single-engine plane early Wednesday near North Bend have been identified by relatives

The pilot of a single-engine plane that crashed Wednesday near North Bend has been identified by a family member as a 30-year-old Federal Way man.

Rob Marshall Hill was a swim coach at Decatur High School, where he had graduated in 1999. He also coached the Valley Aquatics Swim Team in South King County, according to his sister, Becca Goode of Federal Way.

Hill was a pilot and a private flight instructor, according to his sister.

Seth Dawson, also a swim instructor at Valley Aquatics Swim Team, was identified by his relatives as another victim of the crash. The 31-year-old native of Vancouver, Wash., was swim coach at Kentlake High School.

The identity of the third crash victim, Liz Redling, 29, of Federal Way, was confirmed by a woman who answered the phone at her house, but she declined to speak further.

The King County Medical Examiner's Office had not officially released the names of the crash victims.

A candlelight vigil for the victims will be held at Decatur High School, at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Hill was a popular and well-loved coach, known for his encouragement and kindness, Goode said.

"He was a wonderful coach because he would find the best in everybody," she said. "He was the person who looked at people's interior strengths and then had them build on that."

Goode said her family does not know of any particular flight plans her brother had, and they are speculating that he and the two other victims had simply gone for a night flight when the Cessna crashed into Little Si, near Mount Si.

The probe into the cause of Wednesday's crash will focus on the weather, the pilot's background and the aircraft's maintenance, investigators said.

According to Mike Fergus, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, preliminary information indicates the crash occurred between 1:30 and 2 a.m.

Cindi West, spokeswoman for the King County Sheriff's Office, said two deputies on patrol heard an explosion and began searching for the wreckage. Neighbors also reported hearing a "sputter, pop and an explosion," she said.

"I heard it crash into a sheer cliff, and indeed that's what's up there," North Bend resident Terry Jensen told KING-TV. "It's a tragedy."

An emergency transmitter was either activated on impact or by someone in the single-engine Cessna, said Tom Peterson, aviation emergency-services coordinator for the state Department of Transportation. While the sheriff's helicopter followed the signal to the crash site, searchers using night-vision goggles spotted aircraft debris hanging from broken tree branches, Deputy Ken O'Neal said.

Ground searchers reached the crash site at daylight and found the bodies of the victims, West said.

One of the bodies was carried by a search-and-rescue team more than a mile through rugged terrain, according to the Sheriff's Office. The other two victims were airlifted by helicopter to a medical examiner's van near North Bend.

Little was immediately known about the plane's itinerary, according to Fergus. He said the pilot had not been in contact with air traffic control.

Nighttime flying under visual rules without contacting air traffic control is permitted and not unusual, said National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator Wayne Pollack.

The Cessna 172 was registered to Christiansen Aviation in Wilmington, Del., according to Fergus.

Eric Housman, an employee of Christiansen Aviation, said that the company leases planes to flight schools all over the country and that he had no information about the people in the crash.

It can take an NTSB investigator months to determine a probable cause for accidents, Fergus said.


Kentlake swim coach killed in plane crash



The pilot who flew a single-engine plane into the side of Mount Si last year, killing himself and two passengers, was intoxicated, according to findings by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

A factual report published last month, written in preparation for the NTSB’s final report on the Feb. 15, 2012, accident, found that pilot Rob Hill, an experienced commercial pilot and flight instructor, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent, nearly four times the amount allowed for a crewmember on a civil aircraft, according to the findings.

Hill, 30, was a flight instructor at AcuWings and took one of the company’s planes from the Renton Municipal Airport without permission, according to the company officials.

Hill, along with friends Seth Dawson, 31, and Liz Redling, 29, took off around 1:30 a.m. after attending a local hockey game and going out to dinner, according to the report. Redling posted photographs of herself and Hill in the plane on a social-network page less than an hour before the crash.

The NTSB determined that Hill, who had nearly 1,000 hours behind the controls, flew into the side of the mountain in the dark. Both wings and the rudder were sheared off the Cessna 172 by trees before it slammed upside down into the steep hillside, board investigators found.

“This just so sad,” said Casey Malone, who was a friend of Redling’s. He said nearly 1,000 people showed up at her funeral.

“This was not an accident. It was a crime,” he said. “Losing a friend like this is difficult.”

Two companies at Airport Industrial Park collaborate on runway closure project

Pedro Alvarez, 44, assembles a custom LED light fixture at LED International Lighting in Brooksville on Tuesday afternoon.
[WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]

BROOKSVILLE — While necessity may be the mother of invention, it doesn't hurt when the solution to a problem lies within walking distance.

That's how Tim Neubert, president of Neubert Aero Corp., saw things last October when he went looking for a manufacturer of LED lights that could be used in a new product his company was developing.

Although he had searched nationally, Neubert was unaware of LED International Lighting Inc., a high-tech commercial lighting manufacturer that had set up shop near his company's operations at the Hernando County Airport Industrial Park.

In a meeting with LED International owner David Anglewicz, the two men decided to partner in developing and producing the next generation of portable lighted runway closure systems that are deployed by airports whenever runways are undergoing maintenance or repair.

"It's been a strong collaborative effort for both of our companies," Neubert said. "Staying local has made it easier in that we can introduce new technology and develop our products more quickly than before."

Neubert said that the partnership between the two companies came through his own company's desire to implement new technology into the runway closure systems it has been producing for several years. So far, eight of the systems have been assembled and shipped since January. More are on order.

Resembling giant lighted X's, the portable runway closure systems are used to visually signal aircraft from afar when a runway is closed. Most current systems in place use a system lighted with halogen bulbs. But those tend to be cumbersome because they require frequent maintenance and are powered by diesel generators that must be refueled often.

Emerging LED technology, on the other hand, is energy efficient and reliable. In addition to being weatherproof, LED lights use about one-third of the wattage of standard lighting, have a service life of 50,000 hours and are powered by car batteries that easily can be charged by a small generator.

"When you consider that runways can be closed for a couple of years for maintenance or repairs, that's huge," Neubert said.

Anglewicz, the LED International president, said that although the individual LED components are manufactured overseas, the lighting units themselves, which include additional components provided by local companies ICTC and Sparton Electronics, are built entirely in the Hernando facility.

"It was interesting to see local companies working together," Anglewicz said. "I see it as a growing trend."

County director of business development Mike McHugh agrees. As the industrial park continues to attract more aviation and electronics-related business, he sees the probability of more collaborative efforts between companies.

"I think if you were to ask company owners, I think they would say it makes sense to stay local," McHugh said. "It's easier to monitor quality control, and it's certainly cheaper because you can eliminate some shipping costs. I think it would be win-win for everyone."

Another suit filed in air race crash: North America P-51D, N79111. Accident occurred September 16, 2011 in Reno, Nevada

A Washington state family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Reno Air Racing Association Inc. and others in the latest legal action stemming from a September crash that killed the pilot and 10 people on the ground while seriously injuring 70 other spectators.

The family of Gregory John Morcum, a spectator at the 2011 races, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Reno. The complaint alleges that the racing association was negligent in promoting and holding an unsafe event.

It also alleges that the pilot and others modified the World War II vintage race plane “without due regard for safety and well being of pilots and spectators” and without knowing how the modified plane would perform at extremely high speed.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions that race officials expect to reach at least 50 claims against the event and its participants. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Sept. 16 crash, and its report on the cause could take a year to complete, officials said.

Officials of the Reno Air Racing Association on Thursday said they had not yet been served with the complaint and so couldn’t comment. Lawyers for the races and other defendants named in the current complaint and in previously filed lawsuits have said they will try to avoid going to trial in any of the cases and will instead try to settle cases out of court.

Also listed as defendants in the latest filing are the estate of pilot Jimmy Leward of Florida; Aero-Trans Corp. of Florida, owner of the P-51 Mustang; and Richard L. Shanholtzer Jr. of Texas, who worked on the “Galloping Ghost,” Leeward’s race plane.

Leeward was piloting the aircraft in the Unlimited Class race when he lost control of the aircraft and it slammed into the tarmac near the box seats. The lawsuit alleges that a “trim tab” on the plane’s tail failed, “placing excess G forces on the pilot as the plane pulled sharply upward,” rendering Leeward unconscious. The crash sent debris flying into the crowd.

“The spectators are supposedly seated outside of a ‘debris field.’ However, there is no practical way to judge where the debris field of a violent crash would start or stop,” the complaint alleges.

Previously, lawyers for both sides have said the crash lawsuits eventually might be consolidated into a single action.
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.

Eagle Air aims to reduce cancellations

Eagle Air is working to reduce the number of flight cancellations at Blenheim airport, Air New Zealand says.

A flight out of Blenheim to Wellington was cancelled on Sunday, affecting several people who had been in Blenheim for the wine and food festival at the weekend.

Eagle Air is the Air NZ subsidiary that operates flights to Blenheim. Air New Zealand spokeswoman Tracey Palmer said the flight had been cancelled because of crew sickness.

Eagle Air had cancelled 3.9 per cent of its scheduled services into and out of Blenheim during the past two months, because weather affecting the network around he country, higher-than-usual crew sickness and engineering requirements, she said.

"This percentage is higher than we'd like and the Eagle Air team is working hard to reduce that."

Aviation sources said there was a shortage of the Beechcraft 1900D planes that served Blenheim because five were out of action having their engines replaced.

However, Ms Palmer said only one Beechcraft was on the ground for scheduled maintenance, which included planned engine replacement. It was expected to be back in service in a week.

The engines on other planes had been also been replaced during the past few months.

Pratt and Whitney, which makes the engines for the Beechcraft, announced yesterday at the Singapore Aviation Show that it had signed a 60+ Engine Fleet Enhancement Programme agreement with Air New Zealand, which would carry out a "new for old" engine exchange programme on all Pratt and Whitney engines in the airline's Beech 1900D and ATR72-500 planes. The engines go back to Pratt and Whitney in Canada.

"For operators like Air New Zealand, a fleet enhancement programme is a cost-effective alternative to the option of overhauling high-time engines," a Pratt and Whitney spokesman said.

There were benefits to the operator with such a replacement programme, including having a factory-fresh engine that featured the latest in technology and a standard new-engine warranty. Ms Palmer said Air NZ had a limited ability to do anything about the weather, but was working to boost key maintenance engineering ability during the day.

Most Beechcraft maintenance is done in Hamilton at night.

It had also adjusted the timings of some regional services as part of its regular scheduling programme.