Saturday, April 06, 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.

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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.