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.

On the web:

Story, Photos, Video:

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.

Story, Video, Photos:

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. 

Story and Reaction/Comments:

Story and Reaction/Comments:

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.


Mayaguanans 'Treated Like Animals': Cessna C402, Leair Charter Services Ltd., Mayaguana - Bahamas

Appalled witnesses of yesterday’s tragedy in Mayaguana say political leaders have never cared enough about remote Family Islanders like them.

They said the poor state of the island’s airport is just one symptom among many of the lesser regard Nassau legislators have for their southern neighbors. Others include unusable roads, crumbling infrastructure and a lack of basic services.

Iris Charlton, a teacher who returned to live there last August, said she found the island of her birth largely the same as she left it a decade ago.

“You would think our lives should be considered important,” she said of the dangerous situation at the airport, where there are no lights and only a portion of the runway is usable.

“Just because we live far away from the center doesn’t mean we should be treated like animals. But that’s exactly what happens.

“I just hope the government reacts to this tragedy and does something to change things.”

The victims, along with other Mayaguanans who own cars, had come out to illuminate the runway for an emergency flight to pick up Rev Robert Black, a patient at the local clinic who had taken a turn for the worst.

Ms Charlton was also on hand to help, but said she was afraid because of near disasters in the past.

“We were concerned because the last time this was tried, there was nearly a tragedy. The plane almost hit a car.

“So I was not near a vehicle. I stepped out; I told the driver we have to move away from here, just in case.

“Its just a shame. We were out there with our cars trying to help somebody, and three people had to lose their lives.

“But its not just the runway – the roads here are terrible too.

“On the way to the airport I felt so bad for Rev Black. We couldn’t even drive on the road, we had to drive alongside it.

“For a sick person to have to experience those conditions – at 20-25 minute ride like that – it’s inhumane, that’s what it is,” Ms Charlton said.

Her cousin, Audrey Charlton, said Mayaguanans have been volunteering their cars to illuminate the runway for as long as she can remember.

With little support from the central government, the locals often take matters into their own hands.

For example, she said, they often spray weed killer along the runway or use private tractors to clear the larger vegetation that regularly springs up.

Technically, the island has the biggest airport in the Bahamas, local say. It was originally built as part of a US Naval base.

But it has been allowed to deteriorate to the point that Bahamasair is no longer willing to fly there, as the usable part of the airstrip is too small for the airline’s planes.

“Thank goodness charter flights have taken over the route, but even they said they will soon stop coming because its getting worse.

“Its a total mess, and it ought not to be in such a state. It was an accident waiting to happen,” she said.

“This airport has to close down. The government needs to do something to help us.”


Beechcraft C35 Bonanza, N2025D: Fatal accident occurred January 14, 2016 in Meeker, Rio Blanco County, Colorado

William R. Hiler: http://registry.faa.govN2025D

FAA Flight Standards District Office:  FAA Salt Lake City FSDO-07

NTSB Identification: CEN16FA086 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, January 14, 2016 in Meeker, CO
Aircraft: BEECH C35, registration: N2025D
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

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

On January 14, 2016 about 1745 central standard time (CST), a Beechcraft C-35, N2025D, was destroyed when it impacted terrain near Meeker, Colorado. The airplane departed from Provo Municipal Airport (KPVU), Provo, Utah, enroute to Granby-Grand County Airport (KGNB), Granby, Colorado. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal flight that was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. No instrument flight plan had been filed. 

According to preliminary information provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, while enroute during the accident flight, the pilot requested flight following from air traffic and requested clearance to fly a higher altitude to stay clear of clouds. After receiving flight following, air traffic control queried the pilot on his change of route and altitude before noticing the airplane descend and losing radar and radio contact. A search and rescue effort was activated and the airplane was found early the following morning in mountainous terrain. 

MEEKER, Colo. — Police identified William Ray Hiler, 62, of Tabernacle, Colorado, as the pilot of a small plane that crashed in a remote area of northwestern Colorado on Thursday.

The Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office said Monday that Hiler was earlier seen fueling his plane in Provo and that officials believe no one was with him when he left the airport on his way to Grandby, Colorado.

Hiler was an avid pilot and longtime ski and snowboard instructor who came to Utah to teach in the winters, according to friend Jason Arnold.

"He was just a great human being," Arnold said.

Hiler was returning from a trip to Reno, Nevada, when his single-engine Bonanza 35 disappeared from air traffic control radar, according to Arnold.

The crash happened in a remote area of Colorado about 15 miles west of Meeker, according to police. Investigators said a witness reported seeing a plane banking at high altitude and hearing an explosion Thursday evening.

Arnold said Hiler rebuilt his plane himself and equipped it to fly at high altitudes.

Hiler was also a first counselor in the Granby LDS branch presidency, according to Arnold.

"He gave more for more people with no expectation of anything ever in return," Arnold said.

His birthday, Arnold added, was last week.

Story and photo gallery:

MEEKER, Colo. — A man killed in a Colorado plane crash was identified by the Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office on Monday.

William Ray Hiler, 62, of Tabernash, Colorado, was last seen fueling his plane in Provo, Utah, on Thursday before leaving for Grandby, Colorado, but ultimately crashed near Meeker.

The Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office said the county communications center received a report of a possible plane crash 15 miles west of Meeker, Colorado, around 6 p.m. Thursday. The witness who reported the accident said, "He heard a plane rev its engine, banked twice at a high altitude and then heard an explosion," the sheriff's office said.

The aircraft, reported to be a Beechcraft C35 Bonanza, had a maximum capacity of six, but only Hiler was believed to be on board, authorities said.

The plane was found by search parties on Friday at 10:30 a.m.

The man's family was informed of the loss after the Rio Blanco County Coroner's office made a positive identification.

RIO BLANCO COUNTY – Authorities on Saturday recovered a body from the wreckage of a plane crash first reported on Thursday night near Meeker.

The Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office says the body was transferred to Grand Junction for an autopsy which will be conducted sometime on Monday.

Rio Blanco County Communications Center received a report of a possible plane crash about 6 p.m. Thursday. The person said he heard a plane rev its engines, saw it bank twice at a high altitude and then heard an explosion.

Denver Center Traffic Control confirmed an aircraft, a Bonanza 35 single-engine - had disappeared off the radar. The flight was on its way to Granby from Salt Lake City.

The plane wreckage was removed from the scene by the NTSB with aid provided by the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, The Rio Blanco County Coroner's Office, Rio Blanco County SAR, Meeker Fire & Rescue and the White River Snowmobile Club.

The coroner’s office isn't releasing any information on the identity of the body until notification of next of kin is made.


A single-engine airplane crashed approximately 15 miles west of Meeker around 6 p.m. Thursday on its way from Salt Lake City to Granby.

First responders located the fuselage and one set of human remains around 10:30 a.m. Friday and believe there was only one casualty in the crash.

“At this time, we are believing that it’s just the one occupant,” Rio Blanco County Undersheriff Brice Glasscock said.

The aircraft is reported to be a Beechcraft C35 Bonanza, which range in occupancy from four to six passengers, depending on the model.

According to a news release from the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, “The reporting party stated that he heard a plane rev its engines, banked twice at a high altitude and then heard an explosion.”

Thursday night, one helicopter, seven all-terrain vehicles, 13 snowmobiles and 30 personnel searched an area provided by the National Radar Analysis Team but only found the wing of the plane, part of the propeller and a tire.

The crash site is two miles west of Rio Blanco County Road 5 and County Road 20 on Bureau of Land Management land.

First responders resumed their search of the area at 7 a.m. Friday and secured the wreckage after locating it several hours later.

Rio Blanco Sheriff’s Office has notified the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and the county coroner.

Glasscock said FAA and NTSB investigators are expected to arrive later in the day Friday and take control of examining the scene.

“We’ll be assisting them and so will BLM,” he said.

Responding agencies included Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, Classic Air Medical, Rio Blanco County Search and Rescue, Rio Blanco County Road and Bridge Department and BLM


A plane that crashed in remote Rio Blanco County Thursday afternoon, killing the pilot, is likely owned by a man previously connected to allegations of hauling more than 42 pounds of marijuana from Colorado to Kansas three years ago.

According to online flight tracking information from, a single-engine Beechcraft 35 Bonanza airplane owned by William Hiler of Granby took off from Salt Lake City International Airport at 4:25 p.m. and had been expected to arrive at 6:31 p.m. at Granby County Airport.

The site includes coordinates for the end of the flight that correspond with ones provided in a search area map from the Rio Blanco Sheriff’s Office, the agency coordinating response to the crash.

The tail number of the airplane identified by FlightAware shows it’s owned by Hiler. A spokesman with the FAA, though, would not confirm the tail number of the plane that crashed until next of kin of the pilot could be notified.

Hiler was arrested in July 2013 — but ultimately acquitted — on suspicion of piloting his 1952 plane loaded with $100,000 worth of high-grade marijuana to an Atchison, Kansas, airport, according to news reports.

Read the full story in the Saturday edition of The Daily Sentinel.

RIO BLANCO COUNTY - A plane reportedly crashed about 15 miles west of Meeker while on its way to Granby from Salt Lake City.

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, Rio Blanco County Communications Center received a report of a possible plane crash. The person said he heard a plane rev its engines, saw it bank twice at a high altitude and then heard an explosion.

Denver Center Traffic Control confirmed an aircraft, a Bonanza 35 single-engine - had disappeared off the radar. They gave RBCCC the plane's last known coordinates.

The Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office and Rio Blanco County Search and Rescue combed the area. Several small items, such as a plane wing, part of a propeller and one tire were found.

The search for the plane continued at 7 a.m. Friday. The plane's fuselage and other aircraft parts were found. What appeared to be human remains were also found in the primary search area.

The NTSB, FAA and Rio Blanco Coroner's Office will go to the crash scene.

It is unknown at this time how many people were onboard the plane at the time of the crash.

Story and photo gallery:

RIO BLANCO COUNTY, Colo.-- Authorities with the Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office on Friday morning said they found the fuselage, more aircraft parts, and what appeared to be human remains after a plane reportedly crashed Thursday night.

Witnesses reported hearing the engine revving shortly before an explosion around 6 p.m., about 15 miles west of Meeker, according to Brice Glasscock, Undersheriff of the Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office.

Police said witnesses called authorities after hearing a plane rev its engines, banking twice and then heard an explosion.

An air traffic control center in Denver told dispatchers the craft was a Bonanza 35 single-engine aircraft with a maximum 4-6 passengers, according to the press release.

Small items, the planes wings, part of the propeller and one tire were located within a one-half mile search area, police said.

The Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office secured the area while the search continued Friday morning, and the NTSB will respond to the scene.


MEEKER, Colo. - Searchers have found pieces of a plane after a report of a plane crash on the Western Slope.

Someone called the Rio Blanco County Sheriff's Office Thursday at 6 p.m. and said they heard a plane rev its engine, then they heard an explosion, near Meeker.

Air traffic controllers at the Denver Center Traffic Control said a plane disappeared from radar and gave deputies the coordinates.

Searchers found a plane's wing, part of a propeller and a tire, but no victims.

The search will continue Friday morning.

The missing plane was reported to be a Bonanza 35 single engine aircraft with room for four to six people. There's no word how many people were on board.

The aircraft was flying from Salt Lake City to Granby, Colorado.

The search area is a half mile in size, about 15 miles west of Meeker.

Story, video and photo:

Beechcraft C35 Bonanza, N2025D: Marijuana-filled plane leads to arrests: Amelia Earhart Airport (K59), Atchison, Kansas

Plane involved in marijuana bust

Saab involved in marijuana bust

 Courtesy: Atchison Police Department

Courtesy: Atchison Police Department

Story, Video, Photos, Reaction/Comments: 

Story and Video:

ATCHISON, Kan. — Atchison police officers seized an airplane full of marijuana and busted five people Wednesday at the local airport. 

 Police Chief Mike Wilson said officers worked throughout the night and continue to piece together clues surrounding the incident. Authorities seized 42 pounds of marijuana.

“We developed information that there was a small aircraft headed to Atchison that would have marijuana on it,” Mr. Wilson said. “We also believed there would be a vehicle there to meet them.”

The chief said as information developed during afternoon hours, police officers initiated surveillance at Amelia Earhart Airport.

A 1952 Beechcraft C-35 airplane did land, Mr. Wilson said, and two people were waiting in a car from Kansas City.

“A team of officers converged,” Mr. Wilson said.

There were three people in the plane, all from Colorado. A fourth Colorado resident was waiting in the car with a Kansas City resident.

Arrested at 6:15 p.m. were William R. Hiler, 59, Tabernash, Colo.; Beth A. Branstetter, 22, Kansas City; Lance C. Thompson, 38, Johnstown, Colo.; Daniel L. Brown, 30, Fort Collins, Colo.; and Michael K. Staab, 28, Fort Collins, Colo.

Mr. Wilson said all were taken into custody at the airport, then transported to the Atchison County Jail where they were all booked on possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and no drug tax stamp. Formal charges are pending contingent on Atchison County Attorney Jerry Kuckelman’s review of arrest reports.

Mr. Wilson said in addition to the pot, the plane and a 2008 SAAB were also seized. An investigation is ongoing to determine why Atchison was chosen as a landing spot for drug trafficking.

He said it’s not unusual for the department to work drug cases, but it was unusual that a plane carrying drugs apparently bound for Kansas City would stop in Atchison.

“What this group didn’t plan on was running into a smaller (law enforcement) agency that stopped them in their tracks,” he said.


Is fatal 2010 crash a harbinger of things to come for air travel?

Nobody in the medical helicopter saw the little Cessna airplane as the helicopter approached Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.

Skies were clear and visibility excellent the afternoon of Dec. 31, 2010. The airport had no air-traffic controllers, forcing incoming pilots to avoid each other using crude technology: their eyes.

At 2:26 p.m., a nurse sitting in the helicopter felt a sudden bump. On the ground, witnesses saw the helicopter barely touch the four-seat Cessna. But the collision severed the Cessna’s right wing, sending the plane plunging 500 feet to the ground. The pilot and passenger were killed instantly, marking the 20th collision of that year in the United States.

After a probe of the crash, federal investigators blamed a familiar culprit: the “inherent limitation” of pilot observation, “which made it difficult for the helicopter pilot to see the airplane before the collision.”

Starting Sunday, tens of thousands of pilots flying each day will have to rely increasingly on “see-and-avoid” as the Federal Aviation Administration begins to close nearly a third of its air-traffic control towers to cut costs. The 149 affected airports — small facilities in 38 states catering to private and commuter flights — will remain open but without controllers to keep airplanes a safe distance apart and to warn pilots about runway hazards they may not see.

The tower closures are among thousands of steps federal officials are taking to cut $85 billion in spending this year as a 2011 law requires. But unlike furloughs, removing 871 controllers who guide 8 million planes a year around airports raises fears that pilots, passengers and bystanders will be killed.

“You’re putting people’s lives at risk,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who is trying to restore funding for the control towers, including five in his state. “It’s like taking down the stop signs in your town.”

A few communities are suing to stop the tower closures, saying the FAA has not done a safety analysis.

U.S. airplane collisions have killed an average of 30 people a year since 1982 — a total of 910 deaths, according to a USA TODAY review of federal records. Another 167 people have been seriously injured, and 729 airplanes have been destroyed or substantially damaged in the collisions, the records show.

Pilots flying around airports without towers are at greater risk, the FAA said in a 1990 paper. At airports with towers, “midair collisions are less frequent, and fewer aircraft are damaged in landing accidents,” the FAA wrote in the paper that it used as recently as 2005 to determine which airports need control towers.

The paper says the risk of a midair collision is three times higher around an airport without a control tower than at an airport with a tower. Runway collisions are six times more likely at the “non-towered” airports.

“We wouldn’t have built these towers if we didn’t believe they provided safety,” Moran said.

Transportation Department spokeswoman Sasha Johnson said the FAA paper is no longer used to assess risk and does not reflect safety improvements in the past 25 years.

In its analysis, USA TODAY found that nearly half of the collisions since 1982 occurred at or near non-towered airports. About a quarter occurred around airports with towers, and a quarter occurred far from any airport, in spots where pilots often have no contact with controllers.

Roughly 90 percent of the nation’s 4,880 public airports do not have towers. Typically rural fields with no passenger flights, each has a small fraction of the traffic at major commercial airports with towers.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement Thursday that the FAA will monitor safety at airports losing controllers and “is committed to maintaining this nation’s extremely safe aviation system.”

The FAA says it had to close towers to reach the savings required of almost every federal agency under automatic budget-cutting, called sequestration. The 149 towers are all operated under contracts that the FAA can break on short notice, providing $33 million of the $637 million the agency must cut by Sept. 30. The FAA also plans to furlough 47,000 employees for up to 11 days over the next six months.

Other contracts could not be cut because they help run the entire air-traffic-control system, the FAA said. An FAA program that gives airports $3 billion a year in grants for capital projects is protected by a 1985 sequestration law, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said.

The tower closures will have “relatively small but measurable impacts on safety and efficiency,” CRS said.

“Our overall principle has been, How can we protect the maximum number of travelers?” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a Capitol Hill hearing in February.

The FAA is closing towers only at airports with fewer than 10,000 commercial flights a year — about 27 per day — and fewer than 150,000 annual arrivals and departures. The closures will not touch the hub and regional airports that handle most commercial traffic, mostly affecting people who fly private planes for business or recreation.

Towers will go dark at 36 airports where small planes operate next to scheduled passenger flights, in cities such as Winston-Salem, N.C., La Crosse, Wis., and Branson, Mo. About 3 million passengers used those airports in 2011. Mixing high-speed jets with propeller planes worries Mark Courtney, manager of Lynchburg Regional Airport in Virginia.

“The safety margin begins to narrow,” Courtney said. US Airways runs six flights a day between Lynchburg and Charlotte on 50-seat airplanes. The Lynchburg tower is set to close May 5, but Courtney is working to find local funding to keep it open.

Although nearly 400 airplanes have collided around non-towered airports since 1982, killing 223 people and seriously injuring 80, safety investigators rarely blame the absence of air-traffic controllers. It’s almost impossible to prove that a controller would have kept two airplanes apart — a point highlighted by the 241 collisions at towered airports.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigations often cite the failure of two pilots to see each other when airplanes collide in daylight near non-towered airports.

• In January 2008, two Cessnas collided on a perpendicular angle near Corona Municipal Airport in Southern California as one airplane was descending to land while the other was ascending after takeoff. The collision killed all four people in the planes and a fifth person on the ground, hit by falling plane debris.

• A similar perpendicular collision occurred in February 2010 over Boulder, Colo., killing the pilot and a passenger in a Cirrus airplane that smashed into a Piper, whose pilot also was killed. The NTSB said the pilots would have had trouble seeing the other airplanes because the white Cirrus blended into the overcast sky. The Piper was set against terrain and Boulder’s cityscape.

• In July 2012, a 73-year-old pilot landing in Valentine, Neb., accidentally hit the airplane of his friend and flying companion who had landed moments earlier and was on the runway. The friend, Joseph Andrews Jr. of Puyallup, Wash., died from the crash injuries three weeks later. Surviving pilot Harold Smith said he hadn’t seen Andrews steer his airplane to the side of the runway.

“This accident leaves me with a very heavy heart which will be with me for many years,” Smith wrote in a statement to the NTSB.

Pilots flying in and out of non-towered airports are supposed to fly within established traffic lanes, announce their position using an airport radio channel, and avoid flying in poor visibility unless they are qualified to fly using navigation instruments and have FAA clearance.

Those guidelines are often broken, particularly at non-towered airports, said Gene Benson, an aviation-safety consultant in Hilton, N.Y.

“These airports are magnets for aircraft flying without operating radios,” Benson said, noting that the practice is usually legal. Some pilots fly outside traffic patterns, or in bad visibility when they shouldn’t. “Not everybody does what they’re trained to do in flight school,” he said.

Airport controllers can enforce rules and can notify arriving pilots of runway hazards such as wildlife or a slippery surface. “I’ve been coming in many times and the controller will say, I see three deer or a flock of geese,” Benson said.

On Thursday, the Texas Department of Transportation agreed to pay $2 million to keep open 13 airport towers in the state and a tower in Texarkana, Ark., for 90 days while officials seek a long-term funding source. The airports handle 1,100 flights a week on average.

“The FAA made a determination that we should have the control towers here for the past decade or longer,” DOT Executive Director Phil Wilson said. “We’re trying to maintain that level of safety and integrity.”


NTSB Identification: ERA11FA101A
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, December 31, 2010 in Weyers Cave, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/26/2012
Aircraft: CESSNA 172H, registration: N2876L
Injuries: 2 Fatal,3 Uninjured.

NTSB Identification: ERA11FA101B
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, December 31, 2010 in Weyers Cave, VA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/26/2012
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER DEUTSCHLAND GMBH EC 135 P2, registration: N312PH
Injuries: 2 Fatal,3 Uninjured.

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 and both crewmembers of the helicopter recalled routine radio communication as the helicopter approached the destination airport. They established visual contact with two airplanes that had announced their positions in the traffic pattern; one on the downwind leg and one on short final. The airplanes were also identified by the traffic avoidance system onboard the helicopter. The pilot followed behind and north of the second airplane and continued to the west side of the airport to complete a landing at the helipad. During the descent, about 500 feet above ground level (agl), the pilot "saw about 2 feet of white wing right outside." He "pulled power" and then felt contact with an airplane. The airplane's right wing separated before it departed controlled flight and descended to the ground, fatally injuring both occupants. The helicopter subsequently landed with minor damage and no injuries to the 3 occupants.

Interpolation of radar data revealed that the accident airplane departed from the same airport about 21 minutes prior to the accident and completed a right downwind departure, contrary to the established left traffic pattern. The airplane’s transponder appeared to be off for about 3 minutes after takeoff before transmitting the visual flight rules transponder code (1200) for the remainder of the observed flight; the transponder appeared to be on and functioning at the time of the collision. The airplane proceeded north of the airport before reversing course and returning to approach the airport from the northeast. The last target was observed about 1.2 nautical miles north of the airport on a track leading toward the west side of the landing runway at an altitude of 500 feet agl. About 25 seconds later, the helicopter passed northeast of the airport on a modified left base, about 500 feet above traffic pattern altitude (1,500 feet agl), crossed the final approach course, and turned parallel to and on the west side of the runway. Although only the helicopter was observed by radar at the time of the collision, extrapolation of the accident airplane’s previously observed targets and flight path placed the airplane at the accident site about the same time the helicopter was observed there. An analysis of the relative positions of the airplane and helicopter based on radar data indicated that the airplane remained below the helicopter pilot's field of view as the helicopter overtook the airplane from behind and descended upon it from above. Although the data indicated that the airplane would likely have been visible to the pilot of the helicopter, it is important to note that the onboard traffic avoidance system (TAS) did not provide the pilot with any alert of its presence because the system operated on line-of-sight principles. If an intruder aircraft’s antenna was shielded from the TAS antenna, the ability of the TAS to track the target would be affected. If a TAS equipped aircraft was located directly above an intruder, the airframe of one or both of the aircraft could cause the TAS’s interrogations to be shielded, depending on antenna location (either bottom or top-mounted).

All other airplanes in the traffic pattern were acquired visually by the pilot and crew as their positions were confirmed by the helicopter's onboard traffic avoidance system and the position reports provided by the pilots of each airplane. Because of the high-wing structure of the airplane, and its relative position and altitude, the helicopter's image was either blocked from the airplane pilot's view by the left wing, or was above and behind the airplane in the seconds before collision. Further, no radio position reports from the accident airplane were confirmed. The helicopter pilot’s unalerted detection of the airplane against a complex background of ground objects would have been difficult because of both the lack of apparent contrast between the airplane and the ground, its size in the windscreen, its relative lack of movement within the pilot’s field of view, and the position and angle of the sun. In addition, the helicopter pilot’s familiarity with the customary routes used by fixed-wing pilots to fly into and out of the airport also made detection of the airplane less likely, because the airplane was not in a location that normally contained conflicting traffic. Finally, before the helicopter turned and overtook the airplane, the helicopter pilot’s visual attention would have likely been directed toward the landing area, which would also have limited opportunities for detection of the airplane. The airplane's departure and arrival were contrary to published Federal Aviation Administration guidance, the airplane owner's guidance, and the airplane pilot's guidance to his own students with regard to pattern entry at the destination airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The inherent limitations of the see-and-avoid concept, which made it difficult for the helicopter pilot to see the airplane before the collision. Contributing to the accident was the airplane pilot’s non-standard entry to the airport traffic pattern, which, contrary to published Federal Aviation Administration guidance, was conducted 500 feet below the airport's published traffic pattern altitude and in a direction that conflicted with the established flow of traffic.