Saturday, September 22, 2012

Aircraft makes unexpected landing near Lakeville



The rainy weather led to some scary moments late Saturday morning when a private seaplane had to make an unexpected landing on a St. Joseph County lake.

Police and fire crews from several area departments were called out to Riddles Lake around noon, just south of Lakeville.
 

Neighbors called 911 after seeing the small plane touch down in the water.

The aircraft, carrying a family of four from Illinois, and another seaplane, were headed to Angola when they hit some rain.

For safety reasons, they decided to land on the lake and wait for things to clear-up, but things went awry when officials say one of the planes hit the water too hard, causing a cable underneath to break.

The pilot was able to maintain some form of control, steering the aircraft toward the lake's shoreline. A maneuver that allowed herself, her husband, and their two small children to safely escape.

“It was very easy, no injuries, no major damage, very fortunate. So I think her experience as a pilot and keeping the family and herself calm was very beneficial in helping the situation not become more serious.” Mark Richter, Indiana Conservation Officer, DNR.

Richter also praised the Lakeville Fire Department for its quick response.

The FAA is investigating the incident.

New Aerial Photos Of Casper Mountain [PHOTOS]

Only a few small areas of smoke can be seen on Casper Mountain, nearly a week after crews managed 100 percent containment of the Sheep Herder Hill fire that burned more than 15,500 acres, and destroyed 37 homes and cabins.

K2 News Director Rich Denison was on a training flight for the Civil Air Patrol Saturday morning, and shared these aerial photos showing not only the heavy burned areas, but those areas that were unscathed within the firezone.

The Temporary Flight Restriction, or TFR was lifted earlier this week. It had been in place during the fire to allow for the massive air operations utilized to help contain the fire.

Photo Gallery:   http://k2radio.com/new-aerial-photos-of-casper-mountain-photos/

Beech 95-C55, N265Q: Accident occurred September 20, 2012 in Gulf of Mexico

NTSB Identification: CEN12LA652 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, September 20, 2012 in Gulf of Mexico
Aircraft: BEECH 95-C55, registration: N265Q
Injuries: 2 Minor.

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

On September 20, 2012, about 1545 central daylight time, a Beech 95-C55 airplane, ditched into the Gulf of Mexico waters. The commercial pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane sank in deep water and was not recovered. The airplane was registered to and operated by Government Auctions Online LLC, Henderson, Nevada, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight plan. The flight originated from the Baytown Airport (KHPY), Baytown, Texas, about 1400, and was destined to the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport, Sarasota, Florida.

According to initial statements collected by the Federal Aviation Administration, the pilot was en route to his destination, when he detected smoke in the cockpit. The pilot attempted to troubleshoot the smoke, and saw a fire behind the cockpit panel. The pilot then elected to ditch the airplane in the water.


 'Hopefully this is the last recording because we will be rescued soon': Incredible survival of two men whose plane crashed into Gulf of Mexico - and filmed it on their iPad

http://today.msnbc.msn.com

http://www.dailymail.co.uk


HOUSTON—A pilot is talking about his, and a friend’s, survival after they both crashed into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It happened on Thursday about 28 miles east of South Pass.

Theodore Wright and his passenger had taken off from a small airport in Baytown and were on their way to Sarasota, FL. About halfway into the journey, something went terribly wrong.

The two men began noticing smoke in the cockpit. They soon saw what was causing the smoke when they opened the doors of the Beechcraft 55 Baron 11,000 feet in the air.

“It was about that time he yelled flames, flames, fire!” explained Theodore Wright. “The fire in the cockpit is the number one nightmare for a pilot.”

Wright said he had no choice but flip off the power and point toward the water.

“We bounced hard once. The next time we landed, the water stopped us pretty quickly,” said Wright. “Just about the time we were clipping his jacket on, we were about neck deep in water, airplane nose down first and the tail sticking out.”

They two spent more than three hours in the water. The situation increasingly became more dire.

“I don’t know if we were stung by jelly fish or Portuguese man of war. It was like a bee sting on our feet occasionally, two, three, four times a piece,” he recalled. “I’m watching the sun go down and I know we have only 30 more minutes of daylight, and I know if those guys don’t pick us out in the next 30 minutes, we’re spending the night there.”

It didn’t look good.

Before hope faded entirely, a custom and border patrol plane spotted the men. The Coast Guard was soon hovering overhead, hoisting the men to safety.

“I said they’re here, they’re here, and my friend [asked] where, where, where are they?[I said] 12 o’clock! It was an emotional moment for us,” added Wright.

Wright and his friend were taken to a Coast Guard Center in New Orleans. Both were sore, but escaped with no injuries.

Wright said he couldn’t be happier to be back home in the Clear Lake, TX, area. However, he is upset about what happened to his twin-engine plane. He was planning on using the plane to fly around the world and visit children who have cancer.

Wright said he still hopes to make that happen in 2013. 

Click here to learn more about Wright’s planned flight.

Story, photos and video:   http://www.kens5.com
 
IDENTIFICATION
  Regis#: 265Q        Make/Model: BE95      Description: 95 Travel Air
  Date: 09/20/2012     Time: 2048

  Event Type: Incident   Highest Injury: None     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Unknown

LOCATION
  City: GRAND ISLE   State: LA   Country: US

DESCRIPTION
  AIRCRAFT CRASHED INTO THE WATER, COAST GUARD RECOVERED THE 2 PERSONS ON 
  BOARD WITH UNKNOWN INJURIES, WRECKAGE LOCATED 75 MILES FROM GRAND ISLE, LA

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


OTHER DATA
  Activity: Unknown      Phase: Unknown      Operation: OTHER


  FAA FSDO: BATON ROUGE, LA  (SW03)               Entry date: 09/21/2012 
 
http://registry.faa.gov/N265Q

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N265Q

http://www.flickr.com/photos 
 
 

High flyers love Toronto: TIFF attracted a host of millionaires and their favorite planes to Pearson International Airport this past month

TORONTO - Action star Jackie Chan is a man on the move who wings his entourage to gigs around the world in luxury and comfort.

The star, who is busy with acting and charitable work, flew to Toronto earlier this month in his personal $20 million jet to make special appearances at TIFF.

Chan’s brightly decorated Brazilian-made Embraer ERJ-135 jet can carry up to 37 people while cruising at 37,000 feet and hitting speeds of 1,335 kms an hour. It has a large galley that is geared for fine dining on those long flights.

The aircraft features white leather couches, large chairs and all the electronic toys to keep Chan connected as he was traveling here to be a guest of honor at TIFF’s first Asian film summit on Sept. 10 to promote collaborations between Asian and North American film makers.

The star, who is known for his death-defying stunts, was only in town for a couple days before returning to Asia, where he is an icon with a number of charities to his name.

The co-star of the ‘Rush Hour’ movie series spends a lot of time in the air and this year alone his plane has flown multiple times to Singapore, China, Bejing, U.S. and Canada. He was out of dodge after about 72-hours in the TIFF limelight.

See full article:  http://www.torontosun.com

iPad lost on plane tracked to Oregon flight attendant's home


A Nevada man used a "Find my iPad" application to track an iPad he lost on a flight to the residence of an Oregon City flight attendant. 

 Wendy Dye, 43, allegedly kept the man's iPad after another passenger turned the device over to her on a Horizon Airlines flight she was working September 11.

The man had installed the theft-prevention application several days before the flight  and activated it Wednesday when he remembered he had downloaded it, according to an Oregon City Police press release.'

Dye was arrested Friday night and charged with Theft II by receiving and computer crime. Her bail in Clackamas County Jail is set at $12,500.

Story and photo:   http://www.eurasiareview.com

Passengers in terror: Runway overrun - Aurela Boeing 737-300, Monarch Airlines, LY-SKA Flight ZB-467, Birmingham Airport - UK

 
The engine of the Monarch plane sits just above the grass while the wheel is sunk into the mud

 
Fireman signal to colleagues as they secure the aircraft. No passengers were injured


Terrified passengers were evacuated from a plane after it overshot an airport runway and skidded onto grass as it came in to land. Holidaymakers experienced the hair-raising landing when the Monarch flight arrived at Birmingham Airport from Nice. The Boeing 737 carrying more than 100 tourists span off the runway – leaving the nose wheel and main undercarriage buried in mud.

 Emergency crews raced to the scene to rescue the stricken passengers and all flights at the airport were suspended yesterday afternoon.  It’s the second time the plane has been involved in a major incident in the space of a month after the 25 year-old aircraft broke down in Tenerife in August. An engine fault meant 140 passengers were unable to leave the Spanish island for two days and were instead put up in a hotel while spare parts for the plane were sought.

Read more and photos:  http://swns.com

Pearson Field Airport (KVUO), Vancouver, Washington: Pilots protest rule that restricts airspace use

A hundred worried, angry pilots are protesting a new federal rule that beginning Oct. 1 will limit takeoffs and landings at Pearson Field Airport in Vancouver, in turn reducing private planes' access to the airspace near Portland International Airport.

The rule, issued Thursday by the Federal Aviation Administration office in Renton, Wash., will reduce the times private aircraft can fly inside a new "Pearson Box," a 1-by-8-mile area of airspace that commercial airliners cross when approaching Portland's 10L and 10R runways on the airport's west side.

The rule says one airplane at a time can be in the box. More than 10 airliners an hour pass through the box daily when weather conditions require the use of 10L or 10R. Those runways are used about half the time, when the 28L and 28R runways on the airport's east side aren't in use, airport officials said.

Pearson has no control tower, so Portland traffic controllers will call the shots on who can be in the airspace, and airliners will have priority, according to Portland airport officials.

Concerned pilots had a heated but civil two-hour meeting with sympathetic Portland-based Federal Aviation Administration officials Thursday night. They are scheduled to meet again at 11 a.m. Sept. 29 in the pilot lounge at Pearson.

The pilots fear the "Pearson box" rule will force incoming pilots and the public below into harm's way and cost the Vancouver airport a lot of money.

"Part of the issue is requiring small aircraft to be circling over populated areas at low altitudes for indeterminate periods of time," said Paul Speer, chairman of Vancouver's Aviation Advisory Committee. That will increase noise, waste fuel, endanger the public and make the airport less desirable for "transient aircraft," he said.

In addition, the rule will make it extremely difficult for maintenance shops and flight schools to use Pearson for "touch-and-go" flights, or quick up-and-down hops. The field is supported financially by such businesses' use of the field, Speer said.

Speer said the FAA decided Pearson was operating outside its safety standards and the problem could be fixed only by installing a control tower or by limiting traffic. The FAA chose to limit traffic, apparently because it would cost less, Speer said.

Pearson's airport manager, Willy Williamson, said Friday he'd heard varying cost estimates for a control tower, from a few hundred thousand dollars to $8 million. No one has made a solid estimate, he said.

The FAA order said the changes were necessary because "wake turbulence" from passing jet aircraft could make navigation difficult for nearby small aircraft and because traffic control incidents occur when PDX uses its west runways, forcing airliners to circle before landing.

Speer and Williamson said there never had been a near-miss incident in Pearson airspace. They said there had been seven near-misses reported out of PDX and none had involved Pearson aircraft or Pearson airspace.

"The new procedures will reduce the chances of Pearson Field traffic being exposed to wake turbulence from Portland arrivals, and will reduce the chances of Portland arrivals receiving conflict alerts from their proximity to Pearson Field traffic," said Allen Kenitzer, spokesman for the FAA Northwest Mountain & Alaska Regions.

At Thursday's meeting, Portland FAA officials Laura Schneider, Scott Speer (no relation to Paul Speer) and Robert Verburg said they oppose the new rule but are working to make it succeed.

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., whose district includes Pearson, issued a statement in support of delaying the rule.

"I've heard from a unified coalition of pilots, officials and stakeholders from Clark County and Portland, and they believe a more reasonable solution is possible," the statement said. "I hope the FAA will listen to their concerns before making a decision that could impact hundreds of jobs."

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, City Manager Eric Holmes and the Vancouver City Council also support delaying the rule and want to see Pearson get a control tower, said city spokeswoman Barbara Ayers.

She said a temporary control tower operated successfully at Pearson last year while work was being done on Portland International Airport runways.

Ayers said Pearson was the only U.S. airport of its size without a control tower and that a permanent tower had support from the Port of Portland, Portland air traffic controllers, the Air Line Pilots Association, and Horizon, Alaska and Delta airlines.

"We'll have much more to say about this next week," said Ayers.

In the interim, Craig Allison, manager at Scappoose's airport, allowed it was possible the new rule could drive business to other airports.

"This is the first I've heard of it," he said Friday. "It's possible that a pilot might have done touch-and-gos at Pearson and now they might come up to Scappoose and wait around until they can come home."

Story and comments:   http://www.oregonlive.com

Dreamliner engine inspections ordered after cracks found

WASHINGTON - The FAA has ordered immediate inspections to prevent the failure of a critical component on GE engines that power Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets, adding that failure of the component could cause "possible loss of the airplane."

The order was issued after one of the GE engines failed during a ground test in South Carolina and cracks were found in the fan mid shaft of another engine of the same type two weeks later.

"We are issuing this (directive) because we evaluated all the relevant information and determined the unsafe condition ... is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design," says the FAA order, issued Friday.

The order requires an inspection of the fan mid shaft on all GE GEnx-series turbofan engines installed on 787 Dreamliners before their next flight. Periodic re-inspections are required every 90 days or less to check for possible cracking of the mid shaft.

"This condition, if not corrected, could result in failure of the (fan mid shaft) resulting in one or more engine failure(s) and possible loss of the airplane," the FAA directive said.

Due to the urgency of the problem, the FAA bypassed the usual 30-day public comment period before an airworthiness directive takes effect.

"The FAA has found that the risk to the flying public justifies waiving notice and comment prior to adoption of this rule based on the reported engine failure, the crack find, and that the root cause is still somewhat unknown," the FAA's directive said.

The problem was first noticed when a GE engine failed on a new Dreamliner as it was undergoing runway tests at the Charleston, S.C., airport on July 28. Debris was ejected from the engine and fell on the runway, sparking a small fire and forcing the airport to shut down for about an hour.

Then on Aug. 14, an ultrasonic inspection on the same part in another 787's engine found cracking.

The cause of the cracking is not yet determined, but according to the FAA it "is likely due to environmentally assisted cracking; a type of corrosive cracking that is time-dependent." The agency is requiring repetitive inspections at an interval of not more than 90 days.

The FAA said it is working closely with General Electric to resolve the problem.

It was not immediately clear how many Dreamliners have been equipped with the GE GEnx-series engines. The FAA's directive said it will affect 11 engines installed on planes of U.S. registry.

The Dreamliner jet is one of Boeing's most critical products. The company delivered the first 787 last year following several years of design and production delays. Airlines set record orders for the jet, as its lightweight, high-tech design was expected to offer travelers more comfort, provide airlines significant fuel savings and open up new routes.


Story:  http://www.komonews.com

Piper PA-28R-180 Cherokee Arrow, N4567J: Fatal accident occurred September 22, 2012 in Roanoke, Texas

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Aviation Accident Final Report  -  National Transportation Safety Board: http://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Docket And Docket Items  -  National Transportation Safety Board:   http://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

Aviation Accident Data Summary -  National Transportation Safety Board:    http://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA654
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 22, 2012 in Roanoke, TX
Probable Cause Approval Date: 12/11/2014
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28R-180, registration: N4567J
Injuries: 2 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 had purchased the airplane about 2 months earlier, and the flight instructor departed on an instructional flight. Two witnesses reported that the airplane's engine did not sound right during the takeoff and the ground roll was longer than normal. Just beyond the runway, the airplane turned slightly left and then impacted the top of several trees. Both wings separated and remained lodged in the treetops; first responders noted fuel running from the wings. The emergency locater transmitter (ELT) was in found in the off position. Examination of the engine revealed water and contaminants in the fuel system, especially in the injection servo and fuel pump, which would have resulted in the rough-running engine and loss of engine power. 

A review of the airplane's maintenance records did not reveal any entries since the pilot had purchased the airplane. The airplane's last maintenance entry was at the annual inspection, which was about the time the airplane was purchased. The entry stated "found water in tanks - sumped tanks, cleaned flow divider, fuel screens and lines." The log also had the entry that stated "c/w FAR 91.207 ELT insp by installing new batteries, due March 2017." The airport manager had witnessed the same pilot depart in the accident airplane about a month earlier; however, the airplane's engine did not sound right, and the pilot returned to the airport. A review of the pilot's logbook revealed an entry "aborted X-country, lost engine power, so landed" on that date. About 2 weeks later, an e-mail from the pilot to family members stated that a clogged fuel injection system was found after the aborted flight. Two days after that, the pilot's logbook reflected 1.1 flight hours with a note that stated "test flight, perfect." On that same date, the pilot wrote a check to a maintenance company at the airport on which the airplane's registration number and "Maint" were written in the memo field. It is likely that either at the annual inspection and/or 2 weeks before the accident, maintenance personnel did not appropriately address the fuel contamination issues that persisted at the time of the accident.

The airplane was not equipped with shoulder belts. During the impact sequence, the pilot likely rotated about his lap belt, braced himself with his arms and fractured his shoulders, but his head struck the instrument panel, resulting in his fatal skull injury. The flight instructor similarly rotated forward about his lap belt; his chest and abdomen struck the instrument panel resulting in his fatal injuries. Had the airplane been equipped with single or double shoulder restraints, the pilots' injuries likely would have been less severe and they might have survived.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The loss of engine power during takeoff due to fuel contamination. Contributing to the accident was maintenance personnel's failure to adequately correct the water contamination effects. Contributing to the severity of the occupants' injuries was the lack of shoulder restraints.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT

On September 22, 2012, about 1330 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-180 airplane, N4567J, impacted trees and terrain approximately 800 feet south of the Northwest Regional Airport (F52), Roanoke, Texas. The commercial rated pilot and certificated flight instructor (CFI) were fatally injured and the airplane sustained substantial damage. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed. The flight was originating at the time of the accident.

Witnesses reported that the airplane departed runway 17; however, the takeoff roll was noticeably longer than airplanes typically perform, with an unusual engine sound. The airplane was observed to start a slight left turn, before it descended towards a stand of trees and disappeared out of sight.

The airplane impacted the top of several trees before coming to rest in a grove of trees just beyond the end of the runway.

The airport manager reported that about 2-3 weeks prior to the accident flight, he saw accident the airplane depart the airport. He thought the engine was running rough, the airplane's nose was high, and thought the pilot was going to stall the airplane at a low altitude. He added that the airplane circled around and lined up for a landing, but before reaching the runway the engine revved up and the pilot conducted a go-around; however, again the engine started to sound rough and the pilot made a left turn. The manager added that the airplane circled back to the runway at low attitude and he wasn't sure the airplane would make it back to the runway. The airplane barely made the runway and bounced on landing. The manager told the pilot that he wanted the airplane looked at, and that the pilot to receive some additional instruction before any further flights from the airport.

PILOT INFORMATION

The airplane owner and pilot in the left seat held a commercial pilot certificate for airplane, single-engine land; airplane–instrument. A second-class Federal Aviation Administration, (FAA) medical certificate was issued on March 12, 2010, with the restriction, "must wear corrective lenses". On the pilot's last medical certificate application he reported 450 total flight hours with 10 hours in the last six months. A review of the pilot's flight log revealed that he had a total of 476.6 flight hours. The entry on August 4, 2012 was annotated as, "new airplane checkout satisfactory". An entry on August 17, 2012, for 0.3 hours, was annotated as, "aborted X-country, lost engine power, so landed". The entry on August 30, 2012, was for 1.1 hours and was annotated as, "Test flight. Perfect".

The flight instructor in the right seat, held airline transport pilot certificates for airplane, single and multi-engine land; airplane-instrument. He also held flight instructor ratings for airplane single engine and instrument airplane. A second-class Federal Aviation Administration medical certificate was issued on March 26, 2012. The instructor's logbook was not provided; however, the instructor reported on his last medical certificate he had accumulated 9,000 total flight hours with 190 hours in the last six months.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION

The accident airplane was a Piper PA-28R-180, which is an all-metal, four-seat, low-wing airplane with retractable landing gear and controllable pitch propeller which was manufactured in 1968. The airplane was powered by a 180 horsepower Lycoming IO-360-B1E engine, driving a constant speed, two-bladed metal, controllable pitch propeller. According to FAA records the pilot purchased the airplane in July, 2012.

The airplane's front occupant's seats were equipped with lap belts, but not shoulder harnesses.

According to maintenance records, the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed July 10, 2012, with an airframe total time of 7,048.11 hours and tachometer time of 5,124.11 hours, with 100.11 hours since major overhaul on the engine. The review of the engine maintenance records revealed an entry annotated during the last annual inspection which read; "replaced fuel line between engine driven pump and servo, found water in fuel, flushed flow divider, screens and lines". The entry annotated in the airframe log read; "found water in tanks – sumped tanks, cleaned flow divider, fuel screens and lines". The log also had the entry; "c/w FAR 91.207 ELT insp by installing new batteries, due March 2017" 

The July 10, 2012 annual was the last entry in the maintenance records; there were no entries past the July 10th, date.

The family of the pilot provided email excerpts and a fuel log for the airplane. The excerpt dated August 28, is quoted as; "was clogged fuel injection system. One fuel line was almost completely plugged. Will test fly tomorrow." The family also provided a bank cancel check, made out to Richmond [Aviation] for $200 on August 30, 2012, which had the annotation, " N4567J Maint", in the check's memo section. 

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION 

At 1353, the automated weather observation facility located at Fort Worth Alliance Airport (KAFW), located about 7 miles southwest of the accident location, recorded wind calm, visibility 10 miles, clear of clouds, temperature 92 degrees Fahrenheit (F), dew point 46 F, and a barometric pressure of 30.06 inches of mercury.

AIRPORT INFORMATION

Northwest Regional Airport (52F) is a privately owned airport open to the public and located about 3 miles northwest of Roanoke, Texas. The airport is non-towered and pilots are to use the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). The airport features an asphalt runway, 17-35 which is 3,500-foot long and 40-foot wide. 

COMMUNICATIONS

The pilot was not in contact with air traffic control and there were no reported distress calls from the pilot. 

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) responded to the accident site. The airplane impacted several trees off the south end of runway 17. Both the left and right wings separated near the wing roots and remained suspended in the trees. The fuselage was located about 60 feet beyond the wings, nestled amongst the base of several trees. The first responders reported that when they arrived at the accident site, fuel was running out of the wings. Both wing's fuel tank receptacles had rust along the filler ports.

The fuselage was upright, but tilted to the right and wedged between several trees, with the front of the engine resting at the base of a tree. The fuselage back to the empennage had heavy bending and buckling. The engine and instrument panel were pushed back slightly into the cockpit area.

The engine's crankshaft broke just behind the crankshaft flange, but remained in place. The propeller remained bolted to the engine crankshaft flange; only two of the three blades were visible; with one blade bent under the airplane. One blade was absent any leading edge gouges or polishing and appeared unmarked. The remaining blades also appeared unmarked except the outer 4-5 inches near the tip; which appeared twisted. The engine starter, located behind the propeller and crankshaft ring gear, had an only a minor scoring.

The empennage exhibited substantial damage to the both sides of the horizontal stabilator; nearly severing the stabilator from the fuselage, the vertical stabilizer and rudder remained attached to the aft section of the fuselage with only minor damage. The stabilator trim tab remained attached via the respective hinge.

The airplane's emergency locator transmitter (ELT) was located in empennage section; the unit's activation switch was found in the "off" position. There were no indications that the unit was accessed by first responders.


MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's District, Tarrant County, Fort Worth, Texas, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, conducted autopsies on the flight instructor and pilot. The cause of death for the flight instructor is listed as: blunt trauma of chest and abdomen; the cause of death for the pilot is listed as: basilar skull fracture.

The FAA Toxicology Accident Research Library, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on both occupants. For the pilot the results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and tested drugs. For the flight instructor the results were negative for carbon monoxide, cyanide, and ethanol. The test was positive for etomidate and ondansetron in blood and urine and for naproxen and salicylate in urine. 

TEST AND RESEARCH

A refueling history for the airplane was provided; the fuel log's first entry was July 28th, in Jacksonville, Florida, with the comments, "test flight after purchase". August 4th and 11th , entries were in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with the comments: " for ferry of plane" and "topped off plane at NW Regional". The final entry was on September 18th, at 52F, with the comments, "topped off but did not fly".

During an interview with the airport manager at 52F, he stated that he thought the accident airplane received gas, about 3-4 days prior to the accident flight; he also added that a number of airplanes received gas between the time the airplane was fueled and the accident flight. He also added that after the accident a sample of fuel was taken; a visual inspection of the sample revealed that it appeared consistent with 100LL aviation fuel and absent water or debris.

An examination of the airplane engine was conducted by the NTSB investigator IIC. Continuity was established from the front of the crankshaft to the rear gear drive section of the engine, and through the valve train. The top set of sparkplugs were removed and produced spark when the engine was rotated by hand. Each cylinder produced suction and compression during a thumb test. Both magnetos were removed from the engine and bench tested; each one rotated freely and produced a spark at each terminal. The oil filter was removed and cut open; the filter was free of metal particulates and debris.


The engine's fuel flow divider was removed and opened; the divider was dry but contained a small quantity of particles. The engine driven fuel pump valves and pump housing had areas of rust or corrosion throughout the internal sections; residual liquid consistent with fuel and water was found inside the pump. The fuel servo's fuel screen was absent of any contaminates; the fuel servo was then removed from the engine and disassembled. Fluid consistent with water and fuel were found inside the fuel servo. A white particle and other particulates were also found inside the servo; additionally, several components inside the servo also contained white particulates.


http://registry.faa.gov/N4567J

NTSB Identification: CEN12FA654 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 22, 2012 in Roanoke, TX
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28R-180, registration: N4567J
Injuries: 2 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 September 22, 2012, about 1330 central daylight time, a Piper PA-28R-180 airplane, N4567J, impacted terrain and trees approximately one-quarter mile south of the Northwest Regional Airport (F52), Roanoke, Texas. The commercial rated pilot and certificated flight instructor (CFI) were fatally injured and the airplane sustained substantial damaged. The airplane was registered to and operated by a private individual. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

Initial reports from witnesses indicate that the airplane departed the south runway; however, the takeoff roll was noticeable longer than airplanes typically perform, with an unusual engine sound. The airplane was observed to start a left turn, before it descended towards a grove of trees and disappeared out of sight.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board responded to the accident site. The airplane impacted several trees off the south end of runway 17. Both the left and right wings separated near their roots and remained suspended in the trees. The fuselage was located about 60 feet beyond the wings, nestled amongst the base of several trees.

After documentation of the crash site, the airplane was retrieved for further examination.


 
  A Piper Cherokee PA-28 R180 crashed Saturday during takeoff


Christopher Pratt 

 Christopher Pratt, 41, of Argyle, Texas, passed away on September 22, 2012. He was born on July 14, 1971 in Farmington, Maine to Marshall Pratt and Ita O’Hanlon Pratt. He married Sarah Smitherman in Lake Tahoe, California in 2006.He was a Nuclear Engineer at Enercon Services.

He graduated from St. Charles Catholic High School in LaPlace, Louisiana, and studied his undergraduate and masters work at LSU. He loved to play soccer and was a long time member of the Baton Rouge Soccer Association.

He lived with his family in the Denton, Texas area and was attending Argyle United Methodist Church. He played soccer through Stampede Sports in Southlake and was a member of AOPA Pilots Association.

Visitation will be on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 from 6-8 pm at DeBerry Funeral Directors. The funeral service will be on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 3:30 at Argyle United Methodist Church with Rev. Kory Knott officiating.

Christopher was a loving husband and father and is survived by his wife, Sarah; daughters, Taylor (5) and Victoria Pratt (2); sisters, Marsha Pratt, Carolyn Holton, and Sharon Pratt; and brother, Jason Pratt. 


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The family of a flight instructor who was one of two men killed in a plane crash near Roanoke is speaking out abut Saturday's tragedy. 

 Charlie Yates and Chris Pratt were killed when their plane went down shortly after taking off from Northwest Regional Airport.

Yates, 63, was a decorated and experienced pilot who had a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force — including duty in the Vietnam conflict — and a second career as a Delta Air Lines captain.

More recently, he served as a flight instructor, and that's what he was doing on Saturday in Pratt's Piper Arrow single-engine aircraft.

At the family's Grapevine home, Diane Yates said her husband had been working with Pratt for the past week or so. Yates told her that Pratt had the fundamentals down and knew what he was doing.

Smedley Yates remembers his dad always flying. "He was a hero — not only in the Vietnam War, where he flew OV-10s — but in the cold war, where he flew F-15 Eagles," he said.

It was in the genes.

Charlie Yates flew, as did his father and son. It was a family passion.

"We used to own a plane when we lived in Alaska, and we used to land on the beaches and go fishing," Diane Yates recalled. They were married for 42 years.

It was a lifetime spent in the sky. Yates' 20 years of flight in the Air Force is chronicled in a book he wrote.

Yates also loved teaching others how to soar on their own. "He would let me pretty much do what I wanted with the plane," Mrs. Yates said.

But on Saturday afternoon, Diane Yates got the call every pilot's wife prays to never receive. When information was hard to come by, she suspected he had died.

Charlie Yates was taking off in Christopher Pratt's Piper Arrow single-engine aircraft. They lost altitude at takeoff and crashed a half-mile from the south end of the runway at Northwest Regional Airport in Denton County.

Pratt, a nuclear engineer and father of two little girls, was working toward becoming a flight instructor like Charlie.

Pratt's family said Yates was helping him "brush up." Pratt leaves a wife and two young daughters.

"Whether he was at the controls, whether someone else was at he controls... God is in control," Smedley Yates said, underscoring the importance of faith in the Yates household.

"He was my best friend. I knew he needed me, and I needed him," Diane Yates said.

Charlie Yates was said to have had three passions in life: His family; flying; and studying Scripture.

He had been scheduled to teach at an assisted living facility on Sunday. His topic: "Heaven."

In addition to his wife, Yates leaves an adult son, a daughter, and seven grandchildren.



CBSDFW.COM - Diane Yates got the call no pilot’s wife ever wants to get.

 Her husband, Charlie Yates, 63, was the passenger in a plane crash that took place Saturday just after take off near Northwest Regional Airport.

“That’s something I’ve thought of before since I’ve been married to a pilot for 42 years,” Diane Yates said.

Seconds after the crash four of Charlie Yates’ good friends arrived to help.

Two of his co-workers had heard a plane take off with a strange noise coming from the engine so they went outside to see what was happening.

What they saw was a single engine plane take off and clear the runaway, then clip the tops of the trees just south of the airport, and crash.

They didn’t know their friend and fellow flight instructor, Charlie Yates was in that plane until they got to the wreckage and heard him moaning.

“I’m glad it was us that showed up first to be there with Charlie,” said Glenn Harrington, Director of Operations for MarcAir Aviation, where Charlie Yates worked as the chief flight instructor.

Yates was conscious when they arrived. He was a man of God. To keep him awake, his friends asked him to recite his favorite scripture.

Knowing he was surrounded by close friends gave Diane Yates some solace.

“Such a relief because I know his boss and the pilots that are his instructors, right away, they were praying for him. They were saying scripture verses and Charlie was saying scripture to them,” Diane Yates said.

Friends and family members say God was his first passion, his family and helping others were a close second.

Friends say Yates was on the plane to help the pilot, Chris Pratt, who was working toward becoming a certified flight instructor.

Pratt died at the scene.

Family members say even as Yates was fighting for his life, he was thinking of others.

“They tell us at the hospital, he was comforting those who were working on him, the trauma team and the chaplain, who was a brand new chaplain,” said Diane Yates.

“He was always putting others first, their interests first. He was very selfless,” said his daughter, Angela Guthrie, who is also married to a pilot.

Charlie Yates was a decorated Air Force pilot who spent 15 years flying commercial planes for Delta Airlines and after retiring became a flight instructor.

Along with a passion for photography and flying, Yates loved to waterski. He would often hit the water at sunrise before he went flying.

Charlie Yates was a prominent member of Countryside Bible Church.

Family member say he spent every minute be-friending others and teaching them about God.

Even the neighborhood kids wanted to hang out with Charlie, Diane Yates said.

“They would come to the door and say, ‘Can Charlie come out to play?’ and he’d go out and throw the football with them,” Diane Yates said.

Days before the fatal crash, Yates was preparing to teach a lesson about heaven, something his family now says was a calling from God.

“He was doing what he loved,” said Diane Yates. “He could have done other things but he loved flying and he loved people.”

The family expects hundreds to attend his funeral. Arrangements are pending.

The FAA and NTSB are investigating the cause of the crash. 


http://dfw.cbslocal.com


Flight instructor Charlie Yates, 63, was on board a plane that crashed near Northwest Regional Airport in Roanoke on Saturday, September 22, 2012.


On a perfect Sunday morning to fly... people took off from and touched down at Northwest Regional Airport... some while grieving. Del Hester flew with Charlie Yates just a few weeks ago.

"I didn't know whether to even come fly today and then I got to thinking he'd be the first one to tell you to get out here and go do it," Hester said.

On Saturday, Yates, 63, and pilot Christopher Pratt, 41, had just taken off in a plane when it crashed in the woods south of the Roanoke airport. Pratt died at the scene. Yates died at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

Yates was a fixture at the small airport for the past decade.

"Everybody turned to Charlie," said Hester. "He was the lead flight instructor and just everybody did turn to him.  That was Charlie."

Fellow flight instructor Brooks Higginbotham was here Saturday and said the single engine Piper Arrow Yates was in sounded strange on it's take off run.

"The acceleration was slow and when it got to a point on the runway where an airplane of that type typically takes off," said Higginbotham. "They were still firmly on the ground and they got well down the runway before they finally lifted off."

Investigators do not yet know what if anything that had to do with the plane immediately losing altitude and crashing in the woods.  Pilots around here just know they've lost a friend in Charlie Yates.

"When it came to his flying he was serious but when you were on the ground checking the plane out or something he was always cutting up trying to catch you off guard," said Higginbotham.

 Updated at 10:12 p.m: CBS 11 News has revived the following statement from the wife of Christopher Pratt regarding the death of her husband in today’s crash.

 “It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to a wonderful husband, father and friend. Chris had a passion for life, and loved to fly and spend time with his family. We love him and will miss him every day.”

Updated at 7:53 p.m. CBS 11 News has confirmed the passenger who was transported to the hospital has died. He has been identified as Charles Yates. The pilot identified as 41-year-old Christopher Pratt of Argyle died before paramedics arrived at the scene.

ROANOKE (CBSDFW.COM) - One man is dead another was critically injured in a plane crash just south of the Northwest Regional Airport near Roanoke in Denton County.

The crash happened just after 1 p.m. as a single engine four passenger Piper Cherokee PA-28R-180 was taking off.

Witnesses heard a strange noise from coming the plane as it took off and went outside to see what was going on.

“You could see he wasn’t climbing very well,” said Glenn Harrington, Director of Operations for Marcair Aviation. “It was starting to clear the trees and the end, made a bit of a left turn and pancaked down into the trees.”

The crash site is about a half mile from the end of the runaway.

CBS 11 News’ Doug Dunbar, who is also a pilot, was at the airport shooting another story.

Harrington told Dunbar and two others a plane went down at the end of the runaway and the four jumped into a vehicle and rushed to the scene.

“We saw the airplane. It was in the trees canted to the right side, wings were gone. We couldn’t see wings anywhere,” Dunbar said. “A friend of mine was in that airplane.”

The pilot was unconscious when they arrived on the scene. The passenger, a flight instructor, was conscious and talking.

Paramedics arrived a short time later and a PHI medical helicopter transported the passenger to John Peter Smith Hospital in critical condition.

ROANOKE (CBSDFW.COM) - One man is dead another was critically injured in a plane crash just south of the Northwest Regional Airport near Roanoke in Denton County.

The crash happened just after 1 p.m. as a single engine four passenger Piper Cherokee PA-28R-180 was taking off.

Witnesses heard a strange noise from coming the plane as it took off and went outside to see what was going on.

“You could see he wasn’t climbing very well,” said Glenn Harrington, Director of Operations for Marcair Aviation. “It was starting to clear the trees and the end, made a bit of a left turn and pancaked down into the trees.”

The crash site is about a half mile from the end of the runaway.

CBS 11 News’ Doug Dunbar, who is also a pilot, was at the airport shooting another story.

Harrington told Dunbar and two others a plane went down at the end of the runaway and the four jumped into a vehicle and rushed to the scene.

“We saw the airplane. It was in the trees canted to the right side, wings  were gone. We couldn’t see wings anywhere,” Dunbar said. “A friend of mine was in that airplane.”

The pilot was unconscious when they arrived on the scene. The passenger, a flight instructor, was conscious and talking.

Paramedics arrived a short time later and a PHI medical helicopter transported the passenger to John Peter Smith Hospital in critical condition.

The FAA was on the scene investigating. NTSB is taking over the investigation. 

One person died and another person was injured in a small airplane crash just south of the Northwest Regional Airport in Roanoke on Saturday afternoon.

The FAA said the crash involved a Piper PA 28 aircraft. The wreckage is in the woods south of the airport in Denton County.  It went down shortly after take off around 1:30 p.m.

"The aircraft, when it crashed, the wings tore loose from the fuelsage," said Department of Public Safety spokesman Lonny Haschel. "The fuelsage was what actually went into the ground. There was not fire because the fuel was actually on the wings."

The injured person was taken to the hospital.  The identity of both victims has not been released publicly. 

People at the Northwest Regional Airport said the plane's owner and a flight instructor were aboard when the plane crashed. 

A young flight student knew one of the crash victims. "I saw him about 15-20 minutes before he went up," said Alexander Vanover, flight student. "He said a couple of words and I said goodbye, shook his hand, and was out the door. I'm thinking of him. I remember that plane taking off, went inside to get my sunglasses and when I came out, there were ambulances running down the runway."

The FAA told NBC DFW that National Transportation Safety Board has been notified and investigators are headed to the scene.

ROANOKE (CBSDFW.COM)- One man is dead another was critically injured in a plane crash just south of the Northwest Regional Airport near Roanoke in Denton County. 

 The crash happened just after 1 p.m. as a single engine 4 passenger Piper Cherokee PA-28R-180 was taking off.

Witnesses heard a strange noise from coming the plane as it took off and went outside to see what was going on.

“You could see he wasn’t climbing very well,” said Glenn Harrington, Director of Operations for Marcair Aviation. “It was starting to clear the trees and the end, made a bit of a left turn and pancaked down into the trees.”

The crash site is about a half mile from the end of the runway.

CBS 11 News’ Doug Dunbar, who is also a pilot, was at the airport shooting another story.

Harrington told Dunbar and two others a plane went down at the end of the runway and the four jumped into a vehicle and rushed to the scene.

“We saw the airplane. It was in the trees canted to the right side, wings were gone. We couldn’t see wings anywhere,” Dunbar said. “A friend of mine was in that airplane.”

The pilot was unconscious when they arrived on the scene. The passenger, a flight instructor, was conscious and talking.

Paramedics arrived a short time later and a PHI medical helicopter transported the passenger to John Peter Smith Hospital in critical condition.

The FAA was on the scene investigating. NTSB is taking over the investigation.

One person died and another person was injured in a small airplane crash just south of the Northwest Regional Airport in Roanoke on Saturday afternoon.

The FAA said the crash involved a Piper PA 28 aircraft. The wreckage is in the woods south of the airport in Denton County.  It went down shortly after take off around 1:30 p.m.

"The aircraft, when it crashed, the wings tore loose from the fuelsage," said Department of Public Safety spokesman Lonny Haschel. "The fuelsage was what actually went into the ground. There was not fire because the fuel was actually on the wings."

The injured person was taken to the hospital.  The identity of both victims has not been released publicly. 

People at the Northwest Regional Airport said the plane's owner and a flight instructor were aboard when the plane crashed. 

A young flight student knew one of the crash victims. "I saw him about 15-20 minutes before he went up," said Alexander Vanover, flight student. "He said a couple of words and I said goodbye, shook his hand, and was out the door. I'm thinking of him. I remember that plane taking off, went inside to get my sunglasses and when I came out, there were ambulances running down the runway."

The FAA told NBC DFW that National Transportation Safety Board has been notified and investigators are headed to the scene.

Update 3:20 p.m.: The Department of Public Safety is reporting that the pilot of a small airplane that crashed just south of the Northwest Regional Airport in Roanoke on Saturday died on impact.

The crash happened at around 1:22 p.m.

The pilot was flying a Piper Arrow PA-28R, which is a single-engine plane that seats four. Authorities said there was one other person in the plane at the time of the wreck. That passenger was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth with serious injuries.

Authorities were unable to immediately release the identities of the pilot or the passenger.

DPS also was able to release more details about how the crash happened. Trooper Lonny Haschell said the pilot was taking off from the airport’s runway “and, for reasons as yet undetermined, lost altitude and crashed into a wooded area south of the runway.”

DPS troopers are on the scene waiting for Federal Aviation Administration investigators to arrive. The FAA will be responsible for determining the cause of the crash.

Original: At least one person has been hospitalized in a small plane crash just south of Northwest Regional Airport in Roanoke.

Firefighters from Denton and Roanoke are still on the scene trying to process information. Lt. Doug Parks of the Roanoke Fire Department said the plane that crashed was a small, single-engine general aviation plane.

It’s not immediately clear what caused the crash, but the plane seems to have come to the ground near the runway. Parks said the wreckage is in a wooded area about a half a mile from the southern tip of the runway.

The number of people in the plane and the extent of their injuries could not be immediately confirmed. Parks said that one patient has been transported by helicopter to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.  The Federal Aviation Administration has been called the scene to investigate.

Authorities are on the scene of an ultra-light aircraft reported down in a field near Rickenbacker International Airport (KLCK), Columbus, Ohio


OBETZ, Ohio --   Authorities have responded to a field near Rickenbacker International Airport on a report of an ultra-light aircraft down Saturday afternoon. 
According to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the plane was reported down in the field near Rohr Road and Creekside Parkway shortly after 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

It was not immediately clear if there were any injuries, but initial reports indicated that the occupant of the aircraft was seen walking from the scene.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was unsure whether the aircraft landed in the field or crashed.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, The Circleville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and Columbus firefighters are on the scene investigating.

 
For additional information, stay with NBC4 and refresh nbc4i.com.

Feds: Spruce Creek Fly-In gun dealer shows no remorse for having child porn

 
A former gun distributor and firearms consultant from California, Bruce Jennings was sued by a man injured by a gun when he was a child. When asked how much child pornography he had, he answered, "A lot."

By Lyda Longa

A 63-year-old Volusia man accused by the federal government of possessing and distributing child pornography told agents that he did not feel guilty about downloading and looking at such images, a federal complaint released by the U.S. Attorney's Office shows.

A former gun distributor and firearms consultant from California, Bruce Jennings was sued by a man injured by a gun when he was a child. When asked how much child pornography he had, he answered, "A lot."

Bruce Lee Jennings, who lives in the Spruce Creek Fly-In even had a computer hidden in his Chrysler Sebring loaded with hundreds of images and movies of children engaged in sexual acts, said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who authored the complaint.

A former gun distributor and firearms consultant from California, Jennings was sued by a man injured by a gun when he was a child.

Brandon Maxfield, 25, of Willits, Calif., was injured at the age of 7 by a gun that misfired when it was being cleaned by Maxfield's babysitter. The weapon had been distributed by Jennings and manufactured by the company Jennings operated in California and Nevada called Bryco Arms.

Shot in the face, Maxfield was left paralyzed from the neck down; he sued Jennings and Bryco in 2001, court records show.

In the current criminal case, Jennings told ICE agent Joseph Grey that he had been looking at child pornography for at least five years and that he was aware that the children he was viewing were "real children who had been sexually abused," the complaint says. When Grey asked Jennings how much child pornography he possessed, the suspect answered, "A lot," the complaint says.

Jennings then told Agent Grey that he had a laptop computer hidden in his Chrysler. When ICE investigators searched the car, they found the laptop which contained hundreds of images and movies, the complaint shows.

Jennings was arrested Sept. 14 at his Spruce Creek Fly-In house on Spruce Creek Boulevard. He is being held without bail at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Sanford because he is considered a flight risk, federal officials said.

If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison for each count of distribution of child pornography, said Will Daniels, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney's Office. The maximum he could face is 20 years, Daniels said.

Jennings is also looking at a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography.

In the gun case, Jennings' company manufactured firearms in the early 1990s in California and Nevada commonly known as "Saturday Night Specials," court records show. In his lawsuit, Maxfield claimed that the gun that injured him and was designed by Jennings was defective.

Soon after Maxfield and his family filed the suit against Jennings in California Superior Court, Jennings met with a bankruptcy attorney in Boca Raton in 2002, court records show. That same year, he also put in an offer to purchase his Spruce Creek Fly-In residence for $925,000. After he obtained the house, he spent $84,000 to refurbish it, court records show.

In addition, Jennings wanted to expand the airplane hangar next to his house and he paid a contractor $130,000 in advance of the work being done, court records show.

On May 13, 2003, after hearing the case against Jennings and Bryco in three different phases, the California court entered a judgment against Jennings for $24 million. The day after the judgment — May 14 — Jennings and Bryco filed for bankruptcy, court records show.

Jennings then appealed the California court's decision on the Maxfield lawsuit. But the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, affirmed the California court's decision, saying in part that Jennings had paid the contractor $130,000 with the intent to defraud his creditors (Maxfield), court records show. The Court of Appeals said the $130,000 "greatly exceeded the amount then due under the contract."

Then in 2004, Maxfield himself tried to buy the Bryco Arms company at auction for $505,000. His plan was to melt all the weapons and turn them into a sculpture. Maxfield was outbid however by a Bryco employee who paid $510,000 for the company, court records show.

Brandon's Arms — a nonprofit corporation — was then founded to promote public safety with an emphasis on reducing and eliminating injuries and deaths from the accidental or criminal use of firearms.

According to the group's website, Maxfield — who could not be reached for comment — has yet to be compensated by Jennings for his injuries and medical bills.

Story, comments and photo:  http://www.wftv.com

Story and photo:   http://www.news-journalonline.com

Indianapolis Airport Authority investors ask why AAR isn't being audited

The Indianapolis Airport Authority's massive maintenance facility has lost money for most of the past 10 years, yet it has only conducted one audit to ensure the building's biggest tenant is paying its fair share.

The lack of audits is a sore spot for bondholders who helped finance construction of the $600 million aircraft repair center in the mid-1990s. Bondholders haven't been paid since a bankrupt United Airlines abandoned the facility in 2003, and are still owed $170 million plus interest from the $220 million bond issue.

The airport's biggest tenant today is AAR Corp., an Illinois-based aircraft maintenance firm. The airport signed a 10-year lease with AAR for 10 of the maintenance center's 12 hangar bays in 2004.

The lease includes a profit-sharing arrangement that requires AAR to turn over to the airport a third of its operating profits that exceed 9.25 percent of gross sales at the facility. The lease also allows the airport to audit AAR annually to make sure it's following the profit-sharing arrangement.

Airport and AAR officials say the company's profits have never met the profit-sharing threshold.

Chris Mason, a spokesman for AAR, declined to provide The Star with financial information about the facility, but said the Indianapolis maintenance center is more costly to operate than any of the company's other facilities.

"As such, we have never met the annual threshold for operating profit or as a result owed payments under the provision," he said.

But some bondholders are suspicious of that claim. Scott Connelly, a California investor who owns about 500 bonds, points to AAR's corporate-wide financial statements. Since it began leasing the Indianapolis facility in 2004, the firm's overall revenues have shot up 217 percent, from $652 million to $2.1 billion. The company's financial statements also show that in 2008, its operating margin exceeded 9.25 percent.

None of that proves that AAR would have owed the airport money, but it should be enough to prompt the airport to conduct regular audits, especially since the maintenance center has lost $23.4 million, Connelly said.

"If a company is growing at this type of rate, how can (the airport authority) just decide to not audit AAR every single year?" he said. "It should be like clockwork."

The only profit-sharing audit the airport has conducted is five years old. The report from that audit is less than a page in length and contains only three paragraphs. It is not signed or dated, provides no financial or accounting information, and does not explain how the airport arrived at its conclusion that AAR did not meet the profit-sharing threshold.

Experts who reviewed the audit at The Star's request said it doesn't comply with governmental or public accounting standards.

"As near as we can tell, this was not an audit conducted with professional standards, and therefore we can't judge the value of this audit," said Steve Sossei of the Association of Government Accountants. "The reason you conduct audits in accordance with professional standards is so you can rely on the quality."

Troy Janes, an accounting professor at Purdue University, agreed.

"The report as presented here doesn't follow the standards an external auditor would follow," he said. "If there are concerns about the thoroughness of the audit, I can understand how that would be the case, since it was not done by an external auditor."

In an attempt to determine how airport auditors reached their conclusion, The Star requested on Sept. 13 any working documents associated with the audit. Airport officials have not provided those records.

Airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini said airport auditors examined AAR's general ledger, which provided access to information about gross margin, net sales, direct labor costs, professional fees, and other itemized expenses. He said auditors also contacted other airports for assurance that AAR's reported results were within market norms.

Still, bondholders question why the airport hasn't conducted additional audits since then.

"The airport is using a facility that we paid $220 million to help build, and in return they provide us with literally a one-page 'percentage rent audit' for AAR that was done one time in 2007, and they expect us to take that seriously," said Barry Swenson, a developer in California who owns nearly a third of the bonds. "Someone needs to be accountable to us."

Tensions between bondholders and the airport authority have been high since the airport tried twice to buy the bonds this summer for pennies on the dollar. Bondholders overwhelmingly rejected those offers.

Airport officials have argued that bondholders aren't likely to get repaid. Even though the facility is beginning to make money, the airport must be repaid for its past losses before bondholders can be paid, according to the terms of the settlement agreement that came out of the United Airlines bankruptcy.

Bondholders accuse the airport of putting politics ahead of fiscal responsibility. Taxpayers contributed more than $280 million to build the maintenance center, and 1,500 jobs were lost when United abandoned the facility. To save face and keep jobs, airport officials rented space at below-market rates that didn't cover expenses, bondholders say.

A 2011 financial review obtained by The Star confirmed that some leases at the maintenance center fell well below market value.

At the request of bondholders, financial advisory firm Deloitte analyzed airport accounting records to determine if any information contradicted the airport authority's reported operating and financial results. Deloitte also compared tenant lease rates to market estimates.

In a nine page report, Deloitte found no problems with the airport's financial reporting, but it found that the terms of five of the eight maintenance center leases it reviewed were 45 percent to 55 percent below market rate. AAR's lease was within 10 percent of market range, the report said.

The airport's losses would have been cut by $14.3 million if not for the below-market rate leases, the report said.

Eric Anderson, the airport authority's property director, questioned how Deloitte arrived at those figures.

"I don't know where they got their comps," he said. "We're confident of what we've been doing."

See full article:  http://www.indystar.com