Saturday, April 6, 2013

Alcohol may be factor in plane crash: Caddo Parish, Louisiana

Caddo Parish deputies say the crash could have been the combined result of alcohol use and mechanical failure

A wedding in north Caddo Parish was crashed Saturday evening, but not by uninvited guests.

An airplane crashed in the soybean field across from the cotton gin wedding venue on Hwy. 3049.

The two-seater ultralight plane crashed just before 8 p.m. after taking off from a private farm.

“We’re not sure where it was heading,” Caddo sheriff’s Cpl. Mike Vaitkus said. “It had been experiencing mechanical issues all day and they decided to take it up for a flight.”

The engine failed, and as the pilot was gliding down for an emergency landing, he apparently misjudged power lines. The landing gear caught the lines, sending the plane into a spin and nose diving into a soybean field.

The pilot sustained moderate injuries to his legs and was transported to LSU Hospital.

The passenger was not injured.

The pilot had been drinking prior to the flight, and the passenger was drinking in flight, Vaitkus said. Open containers of alcohol were found inside the wreckage.

The sheriff’s office has turned the investigation over to the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.

Criminal charges are pending, Vaitkus said.

The crash did not deter the wedding celebration.

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Caddo Parish authorities say the pilot and passenger of an ultra-light aircraft that crashed in a field in eastern Caddo Parish had been drinking.

It happened just before 8 p.m. near the intersection of Sentell Road and Shreveport Dixie Road.

Caddo Parish deputies say the crash could have been the combined result of alcohol use and mechanical failure.

According to Cpl. Mike Vaitkus, the plane had taken off from a private farm. It's not clear where they were heading. Officers were told that they had been experiencing maintenance issues all day with the aircraft, and had been working on the engine.

They reportedly had mechanical problems in flight. The pilot told police the engine had cut off and they were gliding in for an emergency landing in a nearby cornfield when the landing gear caught some power lines.

That sent the aircraft into a spin, dose-diving into the field.

Cpl. Vaitkus says the pilot is believed to have been drinking before the flight, and that the passenger was drinking during the flight. Open containers were found inside the downed aircraft.

The pilot was taken to LSU Shreveport Health with moderate injuries. Earlier, Caddo Parish dispatch said it was possible one of the victims had a fractured leg.

Cpl. Vaitkus says the investigation into the crash has been turned over to the FAA. 

Cirrus SR22, N960CM: Pilot says panic led to Arkansas manhunt

A Rohnert Park man who was the subject of an Arkansas manhunt last week after fleeing from deputies in his airplane said Saturday the incident was a stupid mistake that snowballed out of control.

Dennis Hunter, 40, of Rohnert Park, landed his plane on a road in Arkansas.

Dennis Hunter, 40, faces aggravated assault and fleeing charges stemming from the Monday incident at the Saline County Airport, where he had stopped to refuel on a business trip to the East Coast.

“It was just a bad decision that got worse and worse and worse,” said Hunter, the owner of a local company that sells planter boxes.

Hunter is not the prominent real estate developer Dennis Hunter, though Arkansas media reports suggested he was. The developer is 70 and lives in Santa Rosa, according to voter registration records.

Saline County deputies said Homeland Security officials asked them to detain Hunter when he landed at the airport southwest of Little Rock on Monday evening. When they got there, Hunter had already touched down and was refueling his 2001 Cirrus, a small single-engine fixed wing airplane.

When he spotted them, he jumped back into the cockpit and hastily took off before even reaching the runway. The assault charge stems from deputies' claim that the plane's wing nearly hit one of them as it rolled away from the fuel pump, according to sheriff's officials.

Hunter said Saturday he believes Homeland Security officials wanted him questioned because his plane is out of compliance with a safety regulation and therefore wasn't properly registered. His plane is equipped with a parachute that is supposed to be replaced every 10 years, but a new one costs about $20,000 and he hadn't done it, which may have been the reason for the inquiry, he said.

“It's really stupid and I'm foolish for that shortcut,” Hunter said.

Hunter said he saw and heard deputies ordering him to stop but panicked. They were never in any danger of being struck by by his plane, he said.

Saline County sheriff's officials said there was no one available Saturday who could comment on the incident.

Hunter took off, but he didn't get far.

Deputies said Hunter left behind a credit card slip with his name on it in the fuel pump. A short while later, Hunter set the plane down on a rural road near the town of Stuttgart, about 60 miles southeast of Little Rock. He said he landed because the engine wasn't running properly and because he realized officers may very well be waiting for him at the next airport.

He landed safely, but the plane's nose gear ran into ditch, according to photos from the scene.

Hunter said he spent the night near the plane, but when deputies drove up the next morning, he fled again, running to the woods, he said.

That sparked a manhunt that included numerous officers and bloodhounds. Hunter declined to say where he hid or went next, but eventually he contacted an attorney and turned himself in Friday.

He was released on $150,000 bond and has a court hearing next month.

The event caused a flurry of media activity in Arkansas, which followed closely the story of the “fugitive pilot” who had evaded deputies and was wanted by Homeland Security.

Hunter owns GeoPot, which designs and sells fabric pots and planter boxes. He recently moved the business from Petaluma to Occidental Road in Santa Rosa. Hunter pulled up to the business Saturday afternoon driving a Prius and initially declined to answer questions about the episode other than to chastise the media for blowing it out of proportion.

He later acknowledged his own errors, said he is embarrassed by the whole affair, and intends to set it right.

“It was sensational and stupid all at the same time,” he said.

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Robinson R44, VH-HWQ: Chopper upgrade could have saved scientists

A helicopter that crashed last month killing four retired CSIRO scientists was hours away from a safety upgrade that could have saved their lives.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau report, published yesterday, found the aircraft was one of more than 100 across the country not to have modified its fuel tanks to prevent post-crash fires, despite repeated warnings from authorities, The Australian reports.

ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan told The Weekend Australian the Robinson R44 helicopter had been due to have the work done after only a few more hours' flying time. Bankstown Helicopters, which owned the aircraft, confirmed this service was scheduled to take place this Monday.

"It was due, it was booked in. It's just a tragedy. We'd flown 2100 hours in that aircraft without an incident," said a company employee.

The ATSB report said the accident on March 21, at Bulli Tops south of Sydney, was the third fatal crash of an R44 helicopter in NSW since the aircraft's manufacturer issued a warning in December 2010 about the danger of post-impact fires.

All three were "low-energy impacts that resulted in the all-aluminium fuel tanks being breached and a fuel-fed fire," the report said.

In the latest collision, the four scientists-- Gerald Haddad, Anthony Farmer, Donald Price and John Dunlop - were flying to have lunch together.

The helicopter's rotor struck tree branches, causing it to hit the ground and tip over, the report said. "A fire started on the grass under the rotor mast and the cabin. The pilot and the three passengers were fatally injured."

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which previously drafted a regulation to make the modification mandatory but decided not to enforce this, said it would ground any R44 helicopters that have not had the work done before next month.

Full report, The Australian.

Beechcraft G58 Baron, Kiwi Lion LLC, N254F: Accident occurred March 29, 2013 in Kawhia Harbour, New Zealand, New Zealand

NTSB Identification: WPR13WA177
Accident occurred Friday, March 29, 2013 in Kawhia Harbour, New Zealand, New Zealand
Aircraft: BEECH G58, registration: N254F
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On March 29, 2013, at 2320 universal coordinated time, a Beech G58, N254F, ditched in the ocean about 11 nautical miles west of Kawhia Harbour, New Zealand. The airplane was registered to Kiwi Lion LLC, and operated under the pertinent civil regulations of New Zealand. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed.

Just prior to the ditching, the pilot radioed a loss of engine power.

The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Government of New Zealand. This report is for information purposes only and contains only information released by the Government of New Zealand. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
P.O. Box 3555
Wellington 6140
New Zealand

Tel: (64) 4-560-9400
Fax: (64) 4-569-2024

Divers work to recover the bodies off Raglan.

The second of two bodies and part of the light plane which crashed off the Waikato coast last weekend have been recovered by Navy divers this afternoon. 

Eric Hertz, the chief executive of 2degrees mobile, and his wife Kathy were killed when their plane ditched at high speed off the Kawhia Coast last Saturday.

One body was brought up from the upturned plane wreckage 56 metres below the surface yesterday and a second body was retrieved today, police said.

In a statement, the family of the couple said the recovery of the bodies was an immense relief.

"Knowing that they can rest together in peace and that we can say our farewells is of huge comfort at this time.

"By safely recovering the aircraft, despite such challenging conditions and without serious injury to those involved, the rescue authorities have made a huge contribution to us and the wider aviation community. We can now look forward to one day understanding what happened.

"Again, we would like to acknowledge the determination of these people in pursuing such a difficult recovery. We hope the community of New Zealand does not need the services of these extremely committed people, but can assure them that if they do then there is a remarkable team ready to act in such testing times.''

Waikato police operations manager Inspector John Kelly said it was with a great deal of satisfaction, tinged with sadness, that he announced the successful recovery of the second body.

"At the same time the Navy has been successful in recovering a significant part of the wreckage. All staffed involved in the operation, both professional and volunteers, are privileged to have been able to return Eric and Katherine to their family and friends."

The bodies would undergo post-mortem examinations in Auckland.

"Family and friends of the Hertz's have been informed of the recovery and expressed their gratitude for the efforts of all the agencies involved," Mr Kelly said.

The remains of the Beechcraft plane would travel by sea to Auckland on the deck of the HMNZS Manawanui over the next 48 hours accompanied by a CAA safety investigator.

"The wreckage will be held in a secure workshop at the Navy base at Devonport for 72 hours and will be cleaned of saltwater or other debris from the ocean floor and will be closely examined for any initial signs of non-impact mechanical failure or other damage," CAA spokesman Mike Richards said.

"The incredible effort of the police and Navy has given us a much better opportunity to piece together what happened last Saturday," he said.

After the initial 72 hours of examination, the wreckage would be moved to the CAA's secure workshop in Lower Hutt where a detailed examination would continue.

There were three CAA investigators working on the accident.

"Essentially there are three components to the investigation: the man, the machine and the environment. The CAA will be reviewing all radar plots and records for the aircraft and its flight history including a full physical examination of the wreckage itself, the physiological reports on the pilot that come from the coroner and a review of the meteorological records and weather conditions on the day of the flight," Mr Richards said.

The plane that crashed off the coast of Kawhia last Saturday had undergone extensive repairs for damage when it ran off the end of an airstrip a year ago.

Once the wreckage and the bodies of its owner, chief executive of 2degrees Mobile Eric Hertz, and his wife Kathy have been recovered, investigators will look into the cause of the crash.

Hertz reported engine failure before ditching into the sea.

Two issues likely to be of interest to accident investigators are reports of the plane running off the runway in Raglan on February 12 last year, and the subsequent 10 months of repairs. A source in the aviation industry told of the Beechcraft Baron's landing incident.

"During its landing roll it encountered wind shear, which is a common occurrence at the coastal airstrip, and was extensively damaged during the overrun and encounter with the perimeter fence."

It was taken to Ardmore for repairs. After the repairs were completed, the plane flew to Christchurch on Christmas Eve.

Hertz took up the position with 2degrees in August 2009, saying he had accepted the job here because of his "addiction to the adrenalin".

The aviation source said the late model Baron, registered to Hertz's US-based company Kiwi Lion, arrived in Auckland from Hawaii the next month. The aircraft had since visited 16 New Zealand airports.

Two officials confirmed the Raglan accident involved a Beechcraft but did not confirm the aircraft was Hertz's.

Waikato police spokesman Andrew McAlley said he witnessed the February 12 incident.

"I was about 100m away and I saw the twin-engine coming into land but it overshot and smacked through the fence and ended up on the road."

Raglan fire chief Kevin Holmes said the fire service responded. "We went to investigate and it was quickly confirmed that the pilot was out of the aircraft and, as it had been pushed back clear of the road, it was no danger to the public."

The aircraft was understood to be severely damaged with scrapes and holes on the underside and was initially believed to be written off.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigated, but this week refused to release the incident report in light of last weekend's fatal crash.

Its magazine, Vector, carried an article on the dangers of Raglan's 646m grass airfield last year. "For the unwary or low-time pilot, however, Raglan aerodrome can present some interesting challenges because of the runway length and some visual illusions," it said.

Last year, the CAA required forward elevator cables on New Zealand's three Beechcraft Barons to be checked after one snapped before take-off on a plane in Australia.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Pilot’s impromptu river landing raises concerns

By Suzanne Laurent
April 06, 2013 8:23 PM

PORTSMOUTH — Diners along the decks downtown got a first-hand look at a small marine drama as a Cessna amphibian/float aircraft landed in the Piscataqua River between the Sarah Mildred Long and Memorial bridges.

According to United States Coast Guard Petty Officer Timothy Hoenig there were two passengers in the plane that was not in any distress.

“They said they were just curious and landed,” Hoenig said. A call to the Coast Guard first came in from Portsmouth police saying a small plane had landed on the other side of the Interstate 95 bridge.

“It then took off and landed again where we found it near the (Moran) tug boats,” Hoenig said.

After determining the plane was not in distress, the Coast Guard escorted the plane east along the river until it could safely take off, headed for Laconia.

“We watched it leave the area with binoculars,” Hoenig said.

Frank Pellegrino of Kittery, Maine, joined others on the deck of Martingale Wharf restaurant to watch the incident.

“It was strange that the plane landed here so close to the shipyard,” he said.

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Newport man dies in skydiving accident: Tradewind Sky Sports at Martin County Airport (KMCZ), Williamston, North Carolina

Frank Plisko
The victim of a skydiving accident being investigated by the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Aviation Administration is listed as an instructor with local skydiving school. 

Sheriff’s Officials say that 56-year-old Frank Plisko of Newport died following an accident Saturday morning at Martin County Airport. Plisko is listed on the Tradewind Sky Sports website as being an instructor as well as an EMT/Paramedic. The school is located at the airport and says that it specializes in first time tandem skydiving.

A friend of Plisko’s told WITN via Facebook that Plisko had just recently earned his coaching license, but had been a skydiver for many years.

Investigators have not said yet what they believe led to the accident.

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The Martin County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating a fatal skydiving accident.

Lt. Drew Robinson says that 56-year-old Frank Plisko of Newport died following the skydiving accident. Robinson could not provide any more details on the accident, only that the investigation is ongoing.

Martin County 911 Dispatch says that they received a call to Martin County Airport for a skydiving accident around 11:19 a.m.


At New River, birds are spooked to help save aircraft

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of Marine aviation, which began on May 22, 1912, when 1st Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham reported to Annapolis, Md., for flight training.

The Bird/Animal Aircraft Strike Hazard, or BASH, program at the Marine Corps’ New River Air Station is helping save planes, lives and money.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates the average cost of a damaging Naval aircraft wildlife strike is more than $300,000. Robbie Withington, a wildlife biologist who oversees the BASH program at New River, said BASH aims to reduce the threat of aircraft striking birds and animals, which saves the Marine Corps plenty of money, especially when one V-22 Osprey is valued at nearly $80 million.

Withington is an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, which implemented the program at New River five years ago – just before the “Miracle on the Hudson” crash, when a US Airways jetliner crashed into the Hudson River after striking a flock of birds during takeoff.

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TIMCO expansion plans met with some apprehension (With Video)

GREENSBORO, N.C.–In a 5-4 vote on Thursday night, Guilford County Commissioners approved $400,00 in incentives for TIMCO Aviation Services to expand its operations to PTI.

The company is considering Greensboro as a potential city to expand its operations, by building two new hangars.

TIMCO’s Vice President of Industry and Government Relations, Kip Blakely, says the hangars would be used for “regular business” and add about 400 jobs, that will pay an average of $41,000 a year. The company will also provide on the job training.

“We try to grow technicians that are certified and ready and capable to go to work,” Blakely said.

However, Guilford County Commissioner Jeff Phillips worries about the funding sources of the incentive grants, and how they may be perceived by other companies.

“Small companies who are struggling are concerned when they hear about only the large companies getting the benefit of an incentive,” Phillips said

In addition to the $400,00 from the Guilford County Commissioners, TIMCO received the same amount from the city of Greensboro, and a $1 million grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation.

TIMCO plans to invest around $32 million in the project.

If Greensboro is chosen, the company says the hangars and the jobs should be operational by 2015.

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GE Flight Quest: The Sky's Algorithms


How do airlines predict when a flight will arrive at its destination? GE and partner Alaska Airlines set out to refine those calculations by inviting the world's greatest unsung data crunchers to pore over data to make the predictions more precise through the Flight Quest challenge. Challenge co-winners Jonti Peters and Pawel Jankiewicz, an international team who dubbed themselves "As High As Honor," went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, UK, to explain how they harnessed the data to make the skies that much more predictable.

The Flight Quest challenge, launched in collaboration with the data science platform Kaggle as part of GE's Industrial Internet Challenges, asked aspiring data scientists to help airlines save money and passengers save valuable time by improving arrival predictions. It's one more way that GE works to take on the toughest challenges with the best technologies. The second phase of Flight Quest launches soon.

GE works on things that matter. The best people and the best technologies taking on the toughest challenges. Finding solutions in energy, health and home, transportation and finance. Building, powering, moving and curing the world. Not just imagining. Doing. GE works.

Suffolk, Virginia: Lockheed issues layoff warning

Nearly 60 workers at Lockheed Martin’s location on Harbour View Boulevard in Suffolk could lose their jobs by May 31 if the company loses an important contract, officials said this week.

Citing the notification requirements of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, Lockheed Martin has filed notice of a mass layoff involving 59 Hampton Roads workers, almost all of them at its Suffolk location on Harbour View Boulevard.

According to the Virginia Workforce Network, the notice was issued on March 28, and the layoff would take effect May 31.

However, Lockheed Martin spokesman Craig Vanbebber indicated in an email that the mass layoff is not assured.

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Kumasi Airport runway “broken” and “sinking”

Some portions of the Kumasi Airport’s runway have “broken” and begun “sinking”. 

The Aeronautical Information Service of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has therefore issued a NOTAM (Notice To Air Men) to be cautious in using the runway which has now been restricted.

According to NOTAM (B0320/13) issued on Thursday April 4, 2013, at 1835GMT, the restriction will persist from Friday April 5 to Friday April 12, 2013.

It will be from 0600GMT each day.

It said: “Landing and take-off direction restricted to RWY02 (runway 02) due to broken and sinking surface on RWY20 (runway 20)”.

It noted that the: “Threshold runway distance available is 1,200 meters”.

XYZ News sources say repair works will be undertaken on the defective portion of the runway in the interim.

It is however not clear if the Airport will have to be shutdown once again for such repair works.

The Kumasi Airport was twice shut down temporarily in 2012 for similar repair works to parts of the defective runway which was largely blamed on the use of heavy aircraft by some domestic airlines. 


Obituary: Norbert O’Keefe (Bismarck, North Dakota)

Norbert O’Keefe M.D., 84, Bismarck, died April 3, 2013, at St. Alexius Medical Center, Bismarck, after a long illness. Like he did with his five strokes, he fought for life the past month and worked hard at therapy to recover. 

A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 12:30 p.m. Monday, April 8, at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Bismarck, with Monsignor Thomas Richter celebrating the Mass. A graveside service will be held at approximately 3 p.m. at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan.

Visitation will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Parkway Funeral Service, 2330 Tyler Parkway, Bismarck, with the vigil service beginning at 7 p.m. Visitation will continue on Monday one hour prior to the service at the church.

Norb was born on Oct. 6, 1928, in Williston, the son of John and Marian (Myers) O’Keefe. He was raised and educated in Williston where he graduated in 1946 from Williston High School where he was active in football and basketball.

He was a depression-era child, gained his pilot license the day he turned 16, and was a GI who served in Tokyo right after World War II.

Norb married Angela O’Neill on Aug. 1, 1953, in Williston. He put himself through medical school, built a clinic in a small town in Minnesota, and went back to school at the age of 40 to become a radiologist. As a radiologist, he worked at St. Alexius Medical Center, starting in 1970 until his retirement. He helped build the University of North Dakota Radiology Department, serving as its chairman.

He belonged to numerous professional associations including the North Dakota Medical Association, the AMA, and was a fellow of the American College of Radiology. Throughout his life, Norb had a passion for aviation. Although he flew many types of aircraft, he particularly enjoyed his years flying his DeHavilland Beaver floatplane. He was a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and was recognized as an outstanding aviator in the Bismarck flying community. Norb was presented the Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award for 50 years of dedicated service in aviation safety by the
Federal Aviation Administration.

Read more here:

Go to to share memories of Norb and to sign the online guest book.

Augusta, Kansas: City Council approves new fuel truck

Augusta  --  Augusta’s municipal airport struggled for several years.

But as the hangars began to fill up, the airport has developed a new problem – it is outgrowing its equipment.

Airport Manager Loyd Partin told the City Council Monday that the facility needs to acquire a new jet fuel truck.

When the current 1,000 gallon trailer was purchased it was the perfect size for the airport.

However, as the airport began selling to small and medium sized turbo prop airplanes and business jets, the trailer’s limitations are causing issues.

Josh Shaw, Assistant to the City Manager, said the current trailer is a solid piece of equipment but its size is a shortcoming.

Partin asked the council to approve the sale of the current trailer and permission to pursue a different larger fuel truck to take its place.

The council voted unanimously to sell the current trailer.

Other good news from the airport included a flat insurance cost. The council approved a bid from Madrigal & Welch at the exact same price as last year - $3,750 for the entire year.


Enterprise State Community College sees opportunity with Commercial Jet

The coming of Commercial Jet Inc. to Dothan will provide students at Enterprise State Community College’s aviation campus in Ozark a place to work after they graduate, and the company and college will likely find ways to partner in the future.

Matthew Hughes, dean of instruction, said the addition of the company to the local economy could cause an enrollment increase of up to 25 percent at the college.

“Enrollment depends on the economy, and any time there are employment opportunities, enrollment goes up,” he said.

The school currently has about 650 students. The aviation campus offers courses in aviation maintenance, skills Commercial Jet will need at the Dothan facility.

Hughes also said potential exists for the aviation campus to provide continuing education and skills upgrade classes to employees at the company.


People use cars to light rural runway for emergency medical flight in Peru

In the Amazon rainforest, a tiny airstrip serves as one Peruvian town's connection to the outside world. When a mother, her newborn baby, and a 17-year-old boy needed to fly from Contamana to a hospital for urgent medical attention in the middle of the night, a local radio station broadcast the need for help. Within 30 minutes, people responded and nearly 300 vehicles were lined up to help light the runway for takeoff.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Beechcraft G58 Baron, Reg. Kiwi Lion LLC, N254F: Accident occurred March 29, 2013 in the sea off Kawhia, Waikato - New Zealand
NTSB Identification: WPR13WA177 
14 CFR Non-U.S., Non-Commercial
Accident occurred Friday, March 29, 2013 in Kawhia Harbour, New Zealand
Aircraft: BEECH G58, registration: N254F
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On March 29, 2013, at 2320 universal coordinated time, a Beech G58, N254F, ditched in the ocean about 11 nautical miles west of Kawhia Harbour, New Zealand. The airplane was registered to Kiwi Lion LLC, and operated under the pertinent civil regulations of New Zealand. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed.

Just prior to the ditching, the pilot radioed a loss of engine power.

The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Government of New Zealand. This report is for information purposes only and contains only information released by the Government of New Zealand. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
P.O. Box 3555
Wellington 6140
New Zealand

Tel: (64) 4-560-9400

 Fax: (64) 4-569-2024

A body has been recovered from the downed plane flown by 2degrees boss Eric Hertz. 

 Police will not say whether it is Hertz or his wife Katherine.

"Because of the sensitivities surrounding this multi-agency operation, police will not be able to confirm any details about this person until the body has been formally identified," District Operations Manager Inspector John Kelly said.

"Police are currently working on behalf of the Coroner in relation to this and the person's body was bought to shore this afternoon with the assistance of the coastguard and will be transported to Auckland for a post-mortem examination to be carried out on Monday."

He said the recovery of the body was a significant step but there was "still a lot of work to be done."

The wreckage of the plane continues to lie on the ocean floor off Kawhia.

The body was recovered by navy divers around noon. They had made five dives to the site.

One of the navy divers was injured during the wreckage recovery.

Waikato Police Operations Manager, Inspector John Kelly said showed "just how significant the risks faced by divers working below the ocean's surface are."

He would not specify what the injury was, saying only that the diver was injured while working on the ocean floor about 2.30pm.

"The diver was recovered to the surface and has since been flown by rescue helicopter for treatment as a precautionary measure," Kelly said.

"On behalf of all the agencies involved we would like to express our best wishes to him, Lieutenant Commander Trevor

Leslie and his Operational Dive Team and the captain and crew of the Manawanui."

Kelly said the incident underlined why safety had to come first despite the desire to recover the aircraft and bodies.

Commanding officer of the Operational Dive Team (ODT), Lieutenant Commander Trevor Leslie, said the environmental conditions faced by the divers include various sized swells, strong bottom currents and significantly reduced visibility below the surface.

"These conditions, combined with diver entanglement hazards and the inherent risks associated with diving to this depth are just some of the challenges facing the ODT divers"

Eric Bennett Hertz, 58, and Katherine Picone Hertz, 64, were in their twin-engine Beechcraft Baron when it plunged into the sea off Kawhia Harbour on March 30.

BizJet officers charged with bribing Latin American officials

(Reuters) - Two officers of a Lufthansa subsidiary were indicted in Oklahoma on charges of bribing foreign officials to secure aircraft maintenance contracts, while two others pleaded guilty to related criminal charges, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

The charges, unsealed on Friday, were filed in January of 2012 against four directors of BizJet International Sales & Support, a U.S.-based unit of Lufthansa that provides aircraft maintenance, after a joint probe by the DOJ and FBI.

The men are accused of offering "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in bribes to Latin American military officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the DOJ said in a statement on Friday.

The recipients of the bribes, to ensure aircraft maintenance contracts for BizJet, include officials at the Mexican Policia Federal Preventiva and the Estado De Roraima in Brazil, the DOJ said.

The charges follow an $11.8 million penalty paid last year by BizJet stemming from the same alleged corrupt practice.

Two of the men have already pleaded guilty, according to the DOJ. Paul DuBois, the company's former vice president of sales, admitted to one count each of violating and conspiring to violate the FCPA, while Former Vice President of Finance Neal Uhl pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA.

Both men were sentenced in federal court in Oklahoma on Friday to probation and eight months home detention.

BizJet's former Chief Executive, Bernd Kowalewski, along with former Sales Manager Jald Jensen, were indicted on charges of violating and conspiring to violate the FCPA and laundering money. Both are believed to be abroad, the DOJ said.

A spokeswoman for BizJet did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Lufthansa could not immediately be reached.

FCPA investigations are fairly common among U.S. companies, but the DOJ has had some trouble making charges stick. Last year, the department moved to dismiss a case involving almost two dozen defendants in the arms industry after prosecutors were unable to convince two juries that what the defendants did was illegal.

Another federal judge in California in December 2011 dismissed the conviction of power products company Lindsey Manufacturing based on what he said was prosecutorial misconduct.

The BizJet charges reflect the department's "continued commitment to holding individuals accountable for violations of the FCPA," Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general, said in the DOJ's statement.

Valerie Parlave, assistant director at the FBI's Washington field office, said the bureau is "committed to curbing corruption."

"Business executives have a responsibility to act appropriately in order to maintain a fair and competitive international market," Parlave said in the statement.


Control towers stay open -- but it's not about safety: Opinion

Posted:   04/05/2013 03:13:43 PM PDT
Updated:   04/05/2013 04:33:55 PM PDT

The Obama administration announced today it is delaying the budget-related closures of 149 airport control towers -- eight of them in Southern California -- some of which were scheduled to take effect Sunday.

Note that the reason is not a concern about safety.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it is delaying the closures until June 15 to allow time to deal with a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Washington by trade groups representing companies the
Federal Aviation Administration contracts with to operate the towers, and to consider requests by about 50 airport operators and communities to pay for their towers to stay open.

As an editorial here pointed out, removing air traffic controllers from some airports should not cause safety issues. Of the approximately 5,000 airports in the United States, only about 500 have control towers. Pilots know how to communicate with each other by radio to coordinate takeoffs and landings.

Airfields in Pacoima, Lancaster, Oxnard and Riverside are among those scheduled to close, part of FAA cutbacks forced by sequestration budget trims.

-- Opinion staff 


Fly-along with the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team: New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest at New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport (KEVB), Florida

By Jack DeMarco 
Assignment Editor and contributor  

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -- Cloud cover broke at the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport as I climbed aboard the vintage T-6 performance plane.  The plane, built in 1945, was used for training during World War II.  I was flying a training exercise with the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, who will be performing shows this weekend at the New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest.  

My pilot, Steve Gustafson, is the "left wing" of this talented group of flyers who perform dangerous maneuvers in tight formations.  Steve, a veteran flyer with over 40 years of experience, strapped me into my parachute and gave me instructions on what to do in case of emergency.  I wasn't worried.

I trembled with excitement and a slight bit of nervousness as all four planes fired up their engines.  The set of headphones was equipped with a microphone, so that my pilot could communicate with me, and it also allowed me to hear communication between the pilots and the tower.  

We got the go ahead from the tower and began to taxi to the runway.  This was it, we were about to get underway.  We approached the runway, the planes pulled and parked in diagonal formation -- much like cars parked in a parking lot.  As we were cleared for takeoff, the pilots lined up, not in single file, but in the formation they fly in, which is basically the shape of a diamond.  I watched the speedometer get faster and faster, until finally, liftoff!  We were off.

As we rose through air, the team slowly got closer and closer.  They banked hard and headed out to sea.  I've seen planes fly in tight formation before, but to be in the cockpit and watch these planes turn while being just feet from each other is amazing!  At one point during the flight, I could have climbed out on the wing and stepped onto the wing of another plane!  We flew so close, you could see the expression on the faces of the other passengers along for the ride.  

So far, so good.  We made some turns, climbed and dropped, all in formation, but what happened next, I didn't expect.  They told us before the flight that we would do some rolls and loops, so I just expected to pull away from the group and get spun around.  That didn't happen.  

We were a few miles out over the Atlantic, when the whole team pulled the stick back and headed straight to the sky.  The pilot throttled up and continued to pull back until, we were in a full loop.  Steve called it a "wing over."  I called it unbelievable.  

We weren't done yet.  

Next came a "barrel roll," which is like going in a cork screw motion while upside down.  It was a wild feeling.  My pilot told me we pulled about 4 G's.  As we headed back to the airport, the team pulled what was called a "pitch out," which essentially is a super tight turn.  We lined up in a straight line for final approach and touched down on terra firma.  It was an experience I will never forget.

If you want to check out the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team and other great vintage aircraft's and amazing feats in the air, check out the NSB Balloon & Sky Fest this weekend, April 5-7, 2013.  

For more information, visit their website by clicking here.

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Firefighting Plane Now On Standby In Northern Colorado

This week state officials stationed a single-engine air tanker at the Fort Collins-Loveland Airport in anticipation of a busy wildfire season. 

The small plane is one of up to three the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control will make available for the season. 

Pilot Parker Lucas says the planes are useful because they can get within 10 miles of a fire and drop up to 800 gallons of fire retardant or suppressant. They can also relocate more quickly compared to larger air tankers. 

“We’re smaller, we don’t carry as much as a heavy tanker. But we can work in pairs and tag and extend lines,” he said.
Current wildfire season forecasts indicate that risk is highest for fires in northwest, southwest and southeast Colorado. Colorado Fire Prevention and Control Operations Chief Rocco Snart says right now the risk doesn’t look high for fire along the Front Range.

“That’s not to say that we can’t have fires along the Front Range. That’s just what the models are saying.”

The single engine aircrafts won’t remain stationed in any particular place and will be moved throughout the state during the wildfire season. Colorado has more than a dozen airports that can serve as bases for the state-commissioned planes this summer.

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Boeing Flies 787 Battery-Certification Flight: WSJ

Updated April 5, 2013, 6:34 p.m. ET


The Wall Street Journal

Boeing Co. said Friday it had finished the testing of a redesigned battery system to address the electrical problems that grounded its 787 Dreamliner jet, starting the clock on a final review by regulators to approve the fixes and allow the plane to return to commercial service.

Two representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration joined nine Boeing staff on a nearly two-hour test flight that the company called "uneventful," as it evaluated changes to resolve problems that led to the whole 787 fleet being grounded by regulators in January.

Boeing said it will deliver results of Friday's flight and other recent ground and laboratory testing to the FAA "in the coming days."

Friday's flight marks the last in a series of tests, and moves the regulatory review into a new phase, with officials in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere having the final say on when the jet can return to service.

The flight follows about a month of extensive ground tests of the battery system, which people familiar with the process said met U.S. aviation regulators' objectives.

"Once we deliver the materials, we stand ready to reply to additional requests and continue in dialogue with the FAA to ensure we have met all of their expectations," said Boeing.

Boeing officials seem confident that FAA chief Michael Huerta and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will approve the resumption of passenger flights, these same officials said. That is primarily because all of the testing methods and procedures—as well as specific criteria for passing the tests—were agreed on in advance by FAA technical experts. The tests also were supervised by the FAA.

"It's pretty much a black-and-white question of meeting the test requirements," according to one person familiar with the details. "There's no room for subjectivity."

Under a best-case scenario, Boeing hopes to get a favorable decision from the FAA by mid-April and then anticipates several weeks of work assisting the eight airlines with 787s in installing and checking out the redesigned batteries and new containment system. If all goes well, full 787 service world-wide could resume by early June, according to people involved in the process.

Some safety experts, and even some Boeing and government officials, predict a somewhat longer timetable, largely due to extended deliberations by regulators.

Mr. LaHood, who initially pushed FAA and Boeing engineers to find the specific cause of the two burning 787 batteries that grounded the fleet in mid-January, previously said he intends to raise lots of questions about the fixes.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month before the FAA gave its preliminary approval for the fixes and authorized the flight test, Mr. LaHood said: "I have made it very clear that I want a thorough review" of the plan to fix the batteries.

"I want to get to the bottom of what happened, why it happened and how it can be corrected," he said at the time, "and what we can do to prevent it" in the future.

Regulators in Japan and some other countries will conduct their own reviews of the certification tests, though most of them are likely to follow the FAA's lead.

The company used a 787 built for LOT Polish Airlines SA on Friday's flight from Boeing's Everett, Wash., facility. The jet has been grounded since Jan. 16 following twin incidents aboard Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. 787s.


Cirrus SR22, N960CM: Dennis Hunter turns himself in to authorities

Dennis Hunter

BENTON, Ark. (KTHV) - The man who took off in a plane in Saline County has turned himself in. 

 Lt. Scott Courtney with the Saline County Sheriff's Office says that Dennis Hunter, of California, turned himself in Friday afternoon.

He is out on a $150,000 bond.

Authorities were initially called Monday to assist Homeland Security by going to the Saline County Airport to check on a plane that was to arrive. When deputies got there, the plane was fueling up. As deputies approached, the pilot got back in the plane and quickly took off.

The plane was found Tuesday night on a dirt road just outside of Stuttgart.

Lt. Courtney said he doesn't know why the pilot or plane is wanted by the government. As for why he's wanted by federal authorities and how they knew he would refuel in Saline County, investigators tell THV they cannot release any more information at this time.

He is charged with aggravated assault and fleeing. 

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Pilot Of Fugitive Plane In Arkansas ID’d  

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has released the name of a pilot they suspect was flying a fugitive plane located in east Arkansas this week.

Dennis Hunter of California was spotted in Saline County, where he touched down in Benton on Monday (April 1) to refuel, but took off as authorities approached, officials said.

The abandoned plane was later found on a remote road 10 miles east of Stuttgart. However, the pilot escaped and ran off into the woods, according to FAA officials.

Jay Watsabaugh of Buffalo, Wyo., told 5NEWS he bought the aircraft in 2001, selling it six months ago to Hunter.

Hunter, owner of GeoPlanter in Petaluma, Calif., could not be reached Tuesday for comment. According to the company’s Twitter account, GeoPlanter makes “breathable pots and planters that Make Plants Happy.”

Watsabaugh said he sold the aircraft to Hunter on eBay for $107,000 but never met him in person. Watsabaugh said Hunter still owes him about $12,000 for the plane.

The aircraft can fly more than 200 mph with a tailwind and hold 1,000 pounds of cargo, Watsabaugh said.

Lt. Scott Courtney with the Saline County Sheriff’s Department said deputies were asked to check the Saline County Regional Airport, also called “Watts Field” Monday for a Cirrus model aircraft.

When deputies arrived on the runway, the plane was fueling up, and when the pilot saw deputies approaching, he jumped back in the single-engine plane and took off.

The suspect and plane were headed to Northwest Arkansas, possibly Fayetteville, according to Lt. Courtney.

Fayetteville police said they received a call at 11:52 p.m. Monday from Lockheed Martin, a company in the aerospace and defense in industries.

“They didn’t give a whole lot of specifics about what they wanted however they did mention to us that if we found it just  notify them and not too approach the plane,” said Sgt. Craig Stout, Fayetteville Police.

Officers searched Drake Field, but were unable to locate the plane.

Fort Smith Police said they received a similar call and also checked the Fort Smith Regional Airport early Tuesday morning.

The Federal Aviation Administration also issued an alert for Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, according to Shain Carter, the airport’s Public Information Officer.

The FAA told police not to search or approach the aircraft if the plane was located, but to instead call FAA investigators immediately.


Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six, C-GGBB: Plane in Saskatchewan had ice in fuel line

Investigators say ice clogging up the fuel system was a key problem leading to the crash of a light plane near Kisbey, Sask. on the Easter weekend.

Four adults and two children were on board as the Piper Cherokee 6 crashed in a snowy field Sunday morning. No one died, but one person — the pilot — suffered serious injuries.

Peter Hildebrand, regional operations manager for the Transportation Safety Board, said plane's engine failed after the pilot switched from one fuel tank to another.

"We found in the right outboard tank, a considerable amount of ice which indicated there'd been water in there at some time," Hildebrand said, adding there was ice "in the fuel lines leading to the fuel selector…and in the line leading to the engine."

Investigators have taken the plane apart and say the ice would have prevented fuel in the second tank from getting to the engine.

Water might have entered the fuel tanks if the caps on top of the wing had not been sealed properly, or along with the fuel when the plane was loaded, Hildebrand said.

Investigators said the seals on the fuel caps did appear to be weathered, but could not conclude if they were to blame. The water could also have come from condensation, although Hildebrand said the amount involved was more than he would have expected to see from condensation alone.

Pilots are trained to check for water in the fuel before taking a flight, but, "the amount here was more than one would normally be able to drain away just easily, for example through the fuel bowl, so it sort of overwhelmed the system," Hildebrand said.

The pilot did take steps to drain the water, Hildebrand said, but "the system is really designed to drain smaller quantities of it. Once you have a lot of water in the tank, it's difficult to get it all out."

The investigation is almost complete at this point, according to the TSB.

Kisbey is about 150 kilometres southeast of Regina.


Cessna 414 Chancellor, N37480: Accident occurred April 05, 2013 at Hammonton Municipal Airport (N81), New Jersey

NTSB Identification: ERA13LA191
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, April 05, 2013 in Hammonton, NJ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 02/10/2014
Aircraft: CESSNA 414, registration: N37480
Injuries: 1 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

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

The pilot reported that, during a repositioning flight, he lowered the landing gear during the approach and confirmed that it was extended by observing the landing gear position indicator lights. Immediately after touchdown, the airplane veered left. The pilot applied full right rudder, but the airplane continued veering left and departed the left side of the runway. The airplane struck several trees and was subsequently engulfed in a postcrash fire. A postaccident examination revealed that the nose landing gear had separated from its mount at the left trunnion. Fractographic examination revealed a pre-existing crack at the surface of the left trunnion lug. Subsequent investigation revealed that the fractured part was a used part recently taken from another airplane that had over 20,000 service hours. The crack at the surface of the trunnion lug could not have been seen during a visual inspection of the trunnion assembly before its installation because such cracks can only be identified by eddy current inspections. Multiengine Service Bulletin MEB88-5 requires the trunnion assembly to be subjected to eddy current inspection and, if cracks are identified during this inspection, the trunnion assembly must be replaced; however, the inspection requirements are not applicable to Part 91 operators.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
A loss of control during landing due to the failure of the nose landing gear's left trunnion lug.

On April 5, 2013, about 1150 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 414, N37480, registered to and operated by a private individual, was substantially damaged when it veered off the runway while landing at Hammonton Municipal Airport (N81), Hammonton, New Jersey. The private pilot was not injured and the commercial pilot-rated passenger received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight. The flight originated from Montgomery County Airpark (GAI), Gaithersburg, Maryland about 1105 and was destined for N81. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. 

The airplane was being repositioned to N81 in order for the owner's insurance adjuster and a local mechanic to physically inspect previous claim work for damage done during ground handling following Hurricane Sandy. 

The pilot reported lowering the landing gear during the approach to runway 03, and confirmed that they were extended by observing the landing gear position indicator lights. Immediately after touchdown, the airplane veered to the left. The pilot applied full right rudder, but the airplane continued to veer to the left. After departing the left side of the runway, the airplane struck several trees and was subsequently engulfed in a post-crash fire. 

According to FAA records, the pilot held a private certificate, with ratings for airplane single- and multiengine land. His most recent FAA third class medical certificate was issued on January 2, 2013. As of April 5, 2013, the pilot reported a total of 587 total hours of flight experience, of which 120 hours were in the same make and model as the accident airplane. 

The seven-seat, twin-engine, low-wing, retractable tricycle-gear airplane was manufactured in 1977 and was equipped with two Continental Motors TSIO-520, 520-hp engines. Review of the airplane's maintenance logbooks revealed that its most recent annual inspection was completed on October 26, 2012. At the time of inspection, the airplane had accumulated 9,335 total hours in service. The number one and two engines accumulated approximately 735 and 157 total hours of operation since overhaul, respectively. The airplane had flown about three hours since the most recent annual inspection. 

The 1154 recorded weather observation at Atlantic City International Airport (ACY), Atlantic City, New Jersey, located about 15 miles southeast of the accident site, included wind from 330 degrees at 13 knots, 10 miles visibility, few clouds at 1,600 feet, temperature 11 degrees C, dew point 4 degrees C, and a barometric altimeter setting of 29.83 inches of mercury.

N81 was a non-tower-controlled airport equipped with one asphalt runway, oriented in a 03/21 configuration. The runway was 3,601 feet in length and 75 feet wide. The field elevation for the airport was 65 feet mean sea level. 

Examination of the accident site and surrounding area by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed the left wing impacted several 4 to 6 inch-diameter trees prior to separating from the aircraft. The airplane then spun to the left, with fuel from the severed wing splashing on the nose section of the airplane and onto the hot left engine. The fuel ignited and caused substantial damage to the left engine and forward left section of the fuselage.

Post-accident examination also revealed that the nose landing gear (NLG) had separated from its mount at the nose trunnion. Further investigation revealed that the left NLG trunnion lug had sheared from the trunnion assembly. The fractured lug was sent to the manufacturer for fractographic examination. The examination revealed a pre-existing crack at the surface of the NLG trunnion lug. The crack was approximately 0.015 inch deep at the time of final fracture. Subsequent investigation revealed that the fractured component was taken from a Cessna 310 airplane, and had accumulated approximately 20,000 service hours. According to maintenance records, on March 12, 2013, the nose gear attached tunnel and forward bulkhead were repaired as part of the filed insurance claim, and the nose gear trunnion assembly was replaced at this time.

Cessna Multi-engine Service Bulletin MEB88-5 (Revision 2), Nose Gear Trunnion/Replacement, stated the preferred inspection method for the side lug area was a surface eddy current inspection. An alternate fluorescent penetrant inspection may be used for those facilities without eddy current inspection capabilities. However, MEB88-5 was not a federally mandated requirement for all owner/operators to accomplish. Subsequently, the subject trunnion assembly installed on the accident airplane had received only a visual examination prior to installation.

NTSB Identification: ERA13LA191 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, April 05, 2013 in Hammonton, NJ
Aircraft: CESSNA 414, registration: N37480
Injuries: 1 Minor,1 Uninjured.

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 April 5, 2013, about 1151 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 414, N37480, was substantially damaged when the airplane veered off the runway while landing at Hammonton Municipal Airport (N81), Hammonton, New Jersey. The private pilot was not injured and the commercial pilot rated passenger received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight. The flight originated from Montgomery County Airpark (GAI), Gaithersburg, Maryland about 1107, and was destined for N81. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

The pilot reported lowering the landing gear during the approach and confirmed that they were extended by observing the landing gear position indicator lights. Immediately after touchdown, the airplane veered to the left. The pilot applied full right rudder but the airplane continued to veer to the left. After departing the side of the runway the airplane truck several trees and subsequently was engulfed in a postcrash fire.

The airplane was retained for further examination.

The pilot and passenger survived a plane crash this morning at the Hammonton Municipal Airport in Hammonton, New Jersey.

 "I'm okay," pilot Luis Terry told NBC10's Ted Greenberg shortly after he'd walked away from the accident.

Terry and his co-pilot were the only people on board the aircraft, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"Upon landing he was having difficulty keeping the plane on the tarmac," said Lt. Kevin Friel with Hammonton police.

The plane, a 1977 twin-engine Cessna Chancellor, skidded off runway 3, smashed into some trees and caught fire, according to witnesses.

"The plane still had a substantial amount of fuel in the plane and luckily they were able to get out. If their exit of the plane was blocked, it probably would have been a pretty horrific event," Friel said.

Terry was not injured. His co-pilot suffered minor cuts and scrapes on his arm.

The plane left Gaithersburg, Maryland at 11:07 and according to the FAA, arrived in Hammonton at 11:48.

Pictures taken within minutes of the crash showed smoke coming out of the body of the plane and fire under one of the wings.

Terry stood smoking a cigarette outside the main building of the small airport when we questioned him about what caused the accident.

"Mechanical trouble," he said.

The FAA was on site this afternoon questioning Terry and his co-pilot, which is standard procedure.

Terry, who is from Damascus, Maryland, is listed in the FAA database as the owner of the plane.

A preliminary report on the cause of the crash could be issued in a week to ten days.

The Hammonton airport is expected to re-open on Saturday.

'Truck Burned For More Than An Hour' With Three Inside: Cessna C402, Leair Charter Services Ltd., Mayaguana - Bahamas

Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin inspects the burned vehicle. 
Photo: Chester Robards/Tribune Staff 

Landing gear from the Cessna 402 that collided with the truck is seen here near the rear of the burned wreckage. 
Photo: Chester Robards/Tribune Staff

The remains of a plane crash in which Tim Polowick, formerly of Biggar, and wife Enamae Polowick were killed on April 4, 2013 
Photograph by: Ahvia J. Campbell, The Nassau Guardian

Tim Polowick, formerly of Biggar, and wife Enamae Polowick
Photograph by: Supplied photo, Facebook

Having stood by helpless and in horror as the bodies of three of their neighbors burned for more than an hour, Mayaguanans are blaming yesterday’s plane crash disaster on years of government neglect. 

Witnesses told The Tribune of the harrowing scene as the aircraft – forced to make a risky midnight landing on an unlit, severely damaged runway to pick up Rev Robert Black who needed emergency medical care – clipped one car before colliding with another.

The second vehicle, in which the mother, sister and brother-in-law of former MP Sidney Collie sat, burst into flames. Dying in the explosion were Mrs. Edith Collie, Mrs.  Enamae Polowick and her Canadian husband, Tim Polowick.

With no fire engine on the island, the airport’s extinguishers inoperative, and no source of water nearby, their neighbors could do nothing to help them.

“The people were burning for more than an hour,” said Iris Charlton who was about 50 yards away from the victim’s car. “We couldn’t do anything about it.

“Everyone was in shock, people were screaming and wailing, but there is no fire truck and the fire extinguishers at the airport didn’t work.”

Husband, father and father-in-law of the victims, Stanley Collie said he could not recognize his wife, Edith, as only her skull was left after the fire.

“All of my wife face burn up,” he said. “I said smile. She couldn’t smile because it was only bones. That is something to take deep in your heart.” The cars were driven by locals who came out to help with the emergency airlift by using their headlights to illuminate the runway, which is not equipped with lights.

Another witness, Audrey Charlton, said the fire was so hot that for a long time, no one could even approach the burning truck.

“There were so many persons at that airport, but it was like our hands were tied,” she said. “It was like a scene out of a movie, I couldn’t believe what happening.”

Ms Charlton said she knew the victims very well, as did most people in the close-knit community.

The only good thing about the ordeal, she said, was that the victims must have died instantly in the explosion.

“People are pissed off, we are angry because of the runway,” said Mayaguana Administrator Anton Moss.

“There is no excuse for this. It should have been fixed a long time ago. We should not have had to lose lives to have attention brought to this.”

He said as the plane touched down, a wing clipped one of the cars, causing the aircraft to spin out of control, another wing smashing into the victims’ truck.

“The fuel tank in that portion of the wing exploded, engulfing the vehicle in flames,” Mr Moss said.

“It‘s a small community, so it‘s a tragedy for everyone and Mayaguanans are spread around so people are sad all around the country.

“All we want to come out of this is that the runway gets fixed. But it should not have come to this,” he said.

Mr Moss, who said he inherited the shabby runway when he became administrator, explained that because of the problem, Bahamasair has actually stopped flying to the island. Instead, the government organized charter flights with LeAir Charter Service, which owns the Cessna C402 that crashed yesterday.

“We thank them as far as that goes, but enough now, the runway has to be fixed and Bahamasair has to come back,” he said.

According to eyewitness Audrey Charlton, the runway, already in urgent need of replacement, has been a construction site for the last two or three years.

She explained that under the first Christie Administration, international developer the I-Group started to work on the airstrip as part of its joint-venture resort project on the island.

However, she said, work came to a halt when the FNM government renegotiated the agreement, having expressed concern that too much land was granted to the developer under the original deal.

The majority of the runway has been cordoned off ever since, with only a short section in use. Then, several weeks ago, work started up under the I-Group, but stopped again about six weeks ago after engineers expressed some “concerns” about how it was progressing, Ms Charlton said. Nothing has happened since.

She blamed successive governments for all aspects of the disaster – the state of the runway, the lack of a local fire department, the broken fire extinguishers.

“They always tell us its a lack of money, but it’s an airport. You’re talking about people’s lives here. The longer you take to fix it, the bigger the risk.

“This was an accident waiting to happen,” she said.

Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin said yesterday that the government will not allow Mayaguana’s airport to remain in its current state.

She said emergency lights will be ordered for the airport immediately.

Speaking on the incident yesterday, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade said the vehicle that was clipped by the plane “unfortunately was much too near to the runway.”

Explaining that a full investigation has been launched, Mr Greenslade said: “I wish at the outset to proffer, on behalf of all of us, our sincerest condolences to the families of the deceased – people who are decent outstanding citizens of our country, who are well known to us and who have given an excellent account of their stewardship while they were here with us on this earth.”

Leading the team of investigators is Assistant Commissioner Steven Seymour, whom Mr Greenslade described as “a very decorated and competent senior officer who is fully in tune with what is necessary in the circumstances”.

Joining him are two experts from the Civil Aviation Department along with support staff.

They flew to the island at 10am yesterday.